Berlusconi’s Tax Fraud Conviction Upheld by Italian Courts
Silvio Berlusconi may not be going anywhere anytime soon. In recent news, the highest courts in Italy upheld the tax fraud conviction for the former Prime Minister. The decision has dealt what many believe to be the final blow to the embattled politician widely known for his dramatics. The verdict that was upheld by the high court also called for investigators to reopen the examination calling for Berlusconi to vacate public office in the wake of criminal tax fraud charges and a conviction.
The court’s original sentence imposed a 4-year prison term for Berlusconi for tax fraud. However, upon further review, the court decreased that amount of time to just one year, citing a law that’s in place in the country to combat overcrowding of the prison system. This conviction on tax fraud denotes the very first time that Berlusconi has been convicted of a crime after having wrestled back and forth with judicial system in Italy on more than 20 different occasions.
The ruling that was passed down this week does not necessarily mean that Berlusconi will be packing his bags and reporting to a prison soon. Rather, it just means he has been convicted. The high court now must request formally that he be arrested and remanded into custody to serve prison time. Berlusconi’s lawyer also is able to request a suspended sentence or even house arrest.
A designated Senate committee will be in charge of determining whether or not Berlusconi is required to vacate his public office position as leader of the popular left-right coalition government. In the wake of the verdict, opposing political party leaders have repeatedly called for the resignation of office. If he is forced to leave office, some fear that the aftermath could leave his People of Liberty party in shambles.
A tax fraud conviction is unlikely to send Berlusconi to prison, either. Legal experts in Italy have stated that due to his age – Berlusconi is 76-years-old – that he would likely face house arrest as opposed to a traditional prison term.
The conviction stems from a case that investigated a tax evasion method implemented by Berlusconi along with other perpetrators that bought broadcasting rights from popular American movies for his media networks using a slew of offshore dummy companies that falsely reported the amount they paid for the broadcasting rights to illegally evade taxes.
The tax conviction is not the only problem that Berlusconi is facing in Italy’s legal system. He is still facing charges and heading to trial over a criminal complaint of sexual misconduct with a minor. This charge stems from the accusations of Ruby Heartstealer, who alleges that Berlusconi had repeated sexual encounters with her while she was still a minor, using his position and power of office to veil the affairs.