2 Aug 2013

Berlusconi prison sentence confirmed

6:47 am on 2 August 2013

Italy's top court has upheld a jail sentence against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud.

The five judges of the supreme court rejected Mr Berlusconi's final appeal against a four-year jail sentence, commuted to one year under an amnesty, imposed by a lower court.

But the judges ordered a judicial review by a Milan court of the second part of his sentence, a five-year ban from public office.

This will enable him to remain as a Senator and as leader of his centre-right People of Freedom Party (PDL) for the moment.

He was convicted over the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television empire.

It was the 76-year-old media mogul's first definitive conviction in up to 30 court cases on charges ranging from fraud and corruption to having sex with an under aged prostitute.

The verdict could end his 20-year domination of Italian politics and destabilise the three-month-old government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Reuters reports.

The country is ruled by an uneasy coalition of Mr Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Mr Berlusconi's PDL.

The former premier has repeatedly said the government must not fall whatever the verdict, but some in the PDL had called for a mass walkout of its ministers and public protests if he was convicted. Many Democratic Party members are already unhappy at ruling in coalition with Mr Berlusconi's party.

Because of his age, Mr Berlusconi can do community service or submit to house arrest instead of jail but the sentence is unlikely to take effect until the autumn because of bureaucratic delays.