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Rome counts down to Silvio Berlusconi tax fraud verdict

Postcard from Italy: Billionaire mogul has been told by his lawyers to put a sock in it

Italy is on tenter hooks as it waits to see if the country's wide boy patron/director general Silvio Berlusconi will finally get a definitive criminal conviction for tax fraud.

In fact, a strange hush has descended on the country. As the cities empty in the baking mid-summer heat with people heading for the hills or the seaside, even the epicentre of Italy's most-eagerly anticipated legal verdict of recent times is oddly quiet.

Outside Rome's Supreme Court of Cassation, which is due to rule by Friday, there are none of the usual pro-Berlusconi "supporters" - some of whom are paid €10 to stand outside court buildings and holler their appreciation of the Dear Leader. 

Even the permatanned one has kept his mouth closed for several days, apart from low-key remarks to the effect that he'll stand and take any punishment like a man.

Of course, no one believes that. The billionaire mogul has been told by his lawyers to put a sock in it so as not to irritate the judges.

But clues as to what would happen exactly were he found guilty and given community service and banned from public office, were fairly evident.

The ghastly Berlusconi-stooge and MP Daniela Santanche, today tweeted, without a hint of irony, that "tomorrow could be the last day of democracy".

So were he definitively convicted we can expect large-scale political protest, led by Ms Santanche and the rest of the "Amazons", the over-promoted female parliamentarians in high heels who act as Mr Berlusconi's political bodyguard - rather like all-female security employed by his old pal Colonel Gaddafi.

But Gadaffi's past caught up with him, anyway.  And more than a few Italians are hoping the same will happen to Mr Berlusconi this week.