Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for tax evasion by a Milan court. His lawyer called the decision “incredible” and is hoping for a different ruling upon appealing the verdict.
The court also ruled on Friday that Berlusconi is forbidden from holding any government post for three years, ordering him to pay 10 million euro in damages. The former PM is expected to appeal the decision.
The liklihood of Berlusconi actually spending time behind bars remains to be seen, as verdicts in Italy are only finalized after passing through two stages of appeal.
Berlusconi and 10 other defendants were charged with a scheme to purchase the television rights for US movies to be broadcast on the three time premier’s private television networks via a complex web of offshore companies. The prosecution says Berlusconi and his partner Fedele Confalonieri then falsely declared payments to their Mediaset TV company to avoid paying taxes.
They were also accused of artificially inflating prices for the TV rights of some 3,000 firms which were relicensed on Berlusconi’s networks, earning 250 million euro in illegal profits in the process.
The ruling in protracted 6-year legal battle comes two days after Berlusconi, 76, announced he would not run to reclaim his former position as Italy’s prime minister in upcoming parliamentary elections.