Berlesconi convicted of fiddle

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The Independent Online
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi chalked up his first court conviction for business malpractice yesterday, raising doubts about his political future.

Berlusconi received a 16-month suspended sentence for false accounting over the acquisition of the Italian film company Medusa by his Fininvest media empire in 1987. He was also fined 60 million lire (around pounds 25,000) for his role in artificially inflating the price of Medusa and siphoning off the difference.

The conviction was significant because it was a clear rejection of Berlusconi's argument that he was not responsible for everything in his business empire. It bodes ill for his fortunes in two other ongoing corruption trials.

The main damage is likely to be political, however. Following a string of municipal election defeats, the knives are out in the centre-right opposition for its leadership, and Mr Berlusconi in particular.