Tuesday 12 December 2017

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi sentenced to four years in jail for tax fraud

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi

FORMER Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to four years in jail following a tax fraud trial.

An Italian court delivered verdicts today against the former Prime Minister and others in a six-year-old tax fraud trial.

Prosecutors in the case had demanded that Berlusconi be given a sentence of three years and eight months, along with a sentence for Fedele Confalonieri - the chairman of his Mediaset conglomerate - of three years and four months.

Berlusconi stepped down in November of last year, after Italy came under increasing financial pressure to deal with its extraordinarily high debt.

Berlusconi was continually criticised inside and outside of Italy for his failure to come up with persuasive financial reforms.

The allegations in the case related to a scheme to purchase rights to broadcast US movies on Berlusconi's private television networks through a series of offshore companies and had falsely declared the payments to avoid taxes.

The prosecutors also alleged that they inflated prices for the TV rights of some 3,000 films as they relicensed them internally to Berlusconi's networks, pocketing the difference amounting to around €250m.

Other charges of false accounting and false statements in financial reports were thrown out because the statute of limitations expired.

Prosecutors also demanded six years for Paolo Del Bue, a founder of the private Swiss bank Arner, who is accused of money laundering, and three years and eight months for Hollywood producer Frank Agrama.

The trial began in July 2006, but was put on hold by a now-defunct immunity law that shielded the Berlusconi from prosecution while he was premier until it was watered down by the constitutional court. The trial also faced delays as Berlusconi cited conflicts with his schedule as premier.

Berlusconi has been tried numerous times for his business dealings.

He has always denied wrongdoing and alleged that the cases were politically motivated. In each case to date, he has been cleared or seen the statute of limitations expire.

The statute of limitations in this case is set to expire sometime next year. In Italy, cases must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final.

Berlusconi is also on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with an under-age teenager and trying to cover it up.

It is believed that Mr Berlusconi will appeal against the ruling.

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