Berlusconi set to appeal against tax fraud conviction

Silvio Berlusconi (file image) Silvio Berlusconi resigned as the prime minister of a centre-right coalition last year

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Lawyers for former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are to appeal against his jail sentence for tax fraud, media reports say.

The appeal will be lodged by 10 November, reports said, and could take several years.

Mr Berlusconi and others were convicted of inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset group to avoid paying taxes.

On Friday a Milan court sentenced him to four years but later cut it to one.

The media mogul was also barred from holding office for five years.

A furious Mr Berlusconi later went on national television to condemn the sentence as "intolerable judicial harassment".

He has long complained that he is being persecuted by left-leaning judges in Milan.

"It is a political, incredible and intolerable judgement," Mr Berlusconi said on Italia 1 - one of the TV stations he owns.

"It is without any doubt a political verdict just as all the cases invented against me are political."

Silvio Berlusconi's trials

  • Accused of having paid for sex with an underage prostitute and of abuse of power for asking police to release her when she was arrested for theft
  • Convicted of tax fraud in case focusing on the purchase of the TV rights to US films by his company, Mediaset
  • Two other corruption cases - involving alleged tax evasion by his Mediaset company and the alleged bribing of British lawyer - expired under statute of limitations

Mr Berlusconi has faced a number of trials but it is the first time he has been sentenced for any crime concerning his business activities.

He has in the past either been cleared, or cases have run beyond the judicial time limit.

In 1997 he received a suspended sentence for false book-keeping but that conviction was reversed on appeal.

In the latest case, prosecutors said that part of the money declared for the purchase of US film rights was skimmed off to create illegal slush funds, reducing tax liabilities for Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset group.

The court handed Mr Berlusconi a longer sentence than the three years and eight months requested by prosecutors. However, it later announced that the sentence would be cut to one year due to a 2006 amnesty law aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.

It ordered him and his co-defendants to pay 10m euros (£8m) in damages.

Both the jail term and the ban from holding office will only take effect if the sentence is upheld by a higher court.

Sex case

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says Mr Berlusconi is unlikely ever to serve his sentence as the conviction first has to be confirmed by two successive courts of appeal.

Those appeals could take years, he adds.

In February a court threw out a corruption case against him after the statute of limitations had expired.

He is also currently on trial charged with paying for sex with an underage girl and trying to cover it up. He denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Berlusconi, 76, was forced to resign as prime minister of a centre-right coalition last November, and recently said he had no plans to stand again in elections due next year.

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