Humiliated ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi rages at Italian court that declared him a tax fraud

Former premier faces community service or house arrest after judges uphold jail term

Milan

The law has finally caught up with Silvio Berlusconi after Italy’s Supreme court declared the former prime minister a tax fraud. 

The three-time premier will die with a criminal record after 12 judges in Italy’s highest legal body definitively convicted the billionaire mogul for hiding millions of euros from his media empire in overseas slush funds.

Until this evening, Berlusconi had managed to dodge dozens of convictions on charges including bribery and tax fraud – sometimes thanks to changes in the law that he himself introduced as premier.

The 76-year-old will now face some form of house arrest or the humility of having to perform community service, probably for a year.

The country was anxiously waiting to see if Berlusconi’s first definitive conviction, after two decades of cat-and-mouse tussles with Italy’s judiciary, would have serious repercussions for the left-right coalition of premier Enrico Letta. 

Before the verdict, Berlusconi loyalists in the mogul’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party were threatening to pull the rug from under the fragile administration.

Soon after the conviction, senior PDL politicians arrived at Palazzo Grazioli, Berlusconi’s Rome residence, where the tycoon had awaited the verdict with his lawyers, family members and closest associates.

The head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, called on the court’s decision to be respected. 

In a nine-minute video message, Mr Berlusconi said that “in exchange for the work I've done for nearly 20 years for my country… I get as my reward accusations and a sentence based on nothing that even takes away my personal freedom and my political rights”.

Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said the conviction “was like the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989”.

Mara Carfagna, the former topless model who rose rapidly to become one of Berlusconi’s ministers, said the conviction showed “there was a small part of the judiciary engaged in a war against Berlusconi”. But she said the verdict would not cause the government to collapse.

But pundits said the greatest danger for the wobbly coalition might come from left-wing parliamentarians, who refused to work with a centre-right party run by a convicted criminal. 

Significantly, the part of the sentence banning him from holding public office – and thereby a seat in the Senate – for five years, was sent back by the Cassation judges to be reconsidered by Milan’s appeal court. It will probably have to be reduced from five to three years for technical reasons. 

The judicial review will enable Berlusconi to remain as a senator and as leader of the PDL for now.

Being kicked out of parliament would have humiliated Berlusconi and left him vulnerable to further legal action. However, the tax fraud conviction itself could lead to him being expelled from parliament.

The verdict is the media mogul’s first definitive conviction in up to 30 court cases on charges ranging from false accounting to having sex with an under-aged prostitute.

Berlusconi has frequently blamed “communist magistrates”, particularly those in Milan, for trying to eliminate him from the political scene since he made the leap from business to government in 1994.

In June, he was sentenced to seven years in jail for abusing his office and paying for sex with the Moroccan-born nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, alias “Ruby the Heartstealer” when she was underage. He is appealing this sentence.

He denied the latest charges of tax fraud, saying that in the period concerned – 2002-2003 – he was Prime Minister and far removed from the day-to-day running of his Mediaset business empire. His lawyers also argued that the sums claimed – about €7m (£6m) were too small to interest a billionaire such as Berlusconi.

The former prime minister was originally sentenced to four years in prison. But under measure to cut prison overcrowding, this will be cut to one year. In addition, jail sentences are usually commuted to house arrest or community service for people over the age of 70.

Gad Lerner, a leading left-wing writer and journalist, said the verdict marked the beginning of the end of the Berlusconi era. “That time has to come for him as it does for everyone else,” he said.

But Alessandro Sallusti, editor of the Berlusconi family newspaper Il Giornale, said of Berlusconi, who is known in Italy as il Cavaliere – the Knight, “he will never retreat. He never has and he never will. They’ve written him of so many times, but he’s always come back stronger.”

Charge sheet: No stranger to the legal system

Nov 1994 Under investigation  for allegedly bribing Italian tax authorities as head of his media  and retailing empire.

1997 Convicted of false bookkeeping during 1987 acquisition of a film distribution company and given 16-month suspended sentence, but acquitted on appeal.

2004 Acquitted on one count while statute of limitations expires on another in case of allegedly bribing judges to sway sale of state food conglomerate SME in the 1980s.

2007 Judge throws out tax fraud and embezzlement charges in case involving purchase of TV rights of US. movies by Mediaset, rules statute of limitations expires in a case involving British lawyer David Mills.

August 2012 Strenuously denies newspaper allegations from model Sabina Began that she was pregnant by him before losing her baby. The model was known as ‘Queen Bee’ for her alleged role in Berlusconi’s Bunga Bunga parties.

October 2012 Sentenced to four years in prison by an Italian court for tax evasion. He is banned from holding public office for three years. Appeals lodged.

Nov 2012 Ordered to pay around £2.5m a month to second wife Veronica Lario in divorce settlement. Berlusconi later reveals he will marry Francesca Pascale, nearly 50 years his junior. The model, 27, had been elected in a provincial council in 2009 as a member of his political party.

June 2013 Protests innocence but is convicted of paying for underage prostitutes after being accused of having sex with Karima El Mahroug when she was 17.

July 2013 Nicole Minetti is sentenced to five years for grooming prostitutes for the Bunga Bunga parties. Milanese Court hears she recruited more than 30 women.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit