Silvio Berlusconi faces parliamentary ban after tax fraud conviction is upheld

 

Milan

Three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi's endless legal woes have deepened considerably after a Milan appeals court confirmed his conviction for tax fraud - and raised the possibility that he will be forced to leave parliament.

The 76-year-old mogul was found guilty in October last year of dodging tax on his Mediaset television empire by diverting huge sums to overseas slush funds. He was sentenced to four years in prison and banned from holding public office for five years. 

The custodial sentence would not begin until a second appeal found him guilty. But legal experts said the ban on holding public office - including the senate - should commence now because a serious financial crime is involved, and that only special dispensation from the Supreme court would allow Mr Berlusconi to legitimately remain in parliament.

Justin Frosini, an expert in constitutional law at Milan's Bocconi University said: “He should no longer hold public office. He ought to resign from parliament. But I don't think Berlusconi's going to take this lying down, he'll blame it all on 'communist judges'. It's a worrying situation, though. We could be in for a constitutional clash.”

Losing the status and protection afforded by parliament is thought to be one of the tycoon's greatest fears. In addition to having less political influence he would also be more vulnerable to arrest by magistrates - including the prosecutors in Naples who want Mr Berlusconi to be indicted for allegedly bribing former senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political parties and help bring down Roman Prodi's 2006-2008 centre-left government.

Mr Berlusconi has denied the charges in the tax fraud case and says he is being targeted by-left wing judges.

Soon after this evening's verdict at 7.30pm local time, Mr Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini, repeated the assertion that his client was being victimised. “In any court there would never have been a judgment of this kind if the defendant had not been called Silvio Berlusconi,” he said.

The appeal verdict comes at a particularly delicate time in Italian politics, with Mr Berlusconi's centre-right PDL (People of Freedom) party forming part of a precarious left-right coalition government. Nearly every day the ex-premier has been making noises about pulling the rug from under the administration if some key policies he advocates are not agreed to.

James Walston a politics professor at the American University of Rome, said Mr Berlusconi would set about marshalling his forces in the Senate to ensure he was not removed from parliament.

But some pundits noted that it wasn't a foregone conclusion that he could win a Senate vote on whether he should leave parliament. If sufficient numbers of left-wing senators voted with Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, then Mr Berlusconi could be in trouble.

Mr Berlusconi is also defending himself against criminal charges in the “Rubygate” case in which he is accused of paying for sex with an under-aged prostitute and abuse of office. That trial is scheduled to resume May 13.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own