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.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album