Silvio Berlusconi convicted over Italy wiretap

Footage from court shows the sentence being handed down to Silvio Berlusconi and his brother Paolo

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted and sentenced to a year in jail over an illegal wiretap.

He was accused of arranging for a police wiretap concerning a political rival to be leaked and published in a newspaper run by his brother.

Mr Berlusconi is likely to appeal and will remain free in the meantime.

He is presently appealing against a tax-fraud conviction and also faces a verdict in a sex trial later in March.

The tax fraud conviction stems from a trial last October that saw him sentenced to a year in jail.

The sex trial concerns allegations that the 76-year-old paid for sex with an underage prostitute.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says there is no real prospect of Mr Berlusconi going to jail over the wiretap case, but the conviction is another very serious blow to his reputation.

Under Italian law, prison sentences handed down to those over the age of 75 can be commuted to house arrest.

It comes weeks after his right-wing coalition did better than expected in a general election that provided no clear winner.

Analysis

There is no doubt that Silvio Berlusconi has paid a political price for his legal troubles over the years. Voters who drift away from him sometimes say that the endless scandals were part of the reason for their disenchantment.

But a substantial slice of the Italian electorate is still ready to vote for him. Many of his supporters believe him when he argues that his court cases are just manufactured by his political enemies in a corrupt judiciary.

And after his strong showing in last month's election Mr Berlusconi has reconfirmed that he remains a very substantial force in Italian political life.

However, his coalition looks to be on the margins of efforts to form a new government, and the outcome of this court case is unlikely to have any direct bearing on those negotiations.

The other faction leaders have long had utter contempt for everything Mr Berlusconi stands for, and this verdict will only serve to entrench their views, our correspondent adds.

Vendetta claims

Prosecutors brought the wiretap case after a transcript of a phone conversation intercepted by the authorities was published in the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by Mr Berlusconi's brother Paolo.

The conversation took place between the head of insurer Unipol and Piero Fassino, who was the leader of the biggest centre-left party and Mr Berlusconi's biggest political rival at the time.

Unipol was trying to take over BNL bank in 2005. Magistrates had ordered the wiretap as part of an investigation into inappropriate interference in the takeover.

The publication of the transcript in a national newspaper broke secrecy rules, and Mr Berlusconi was accused of obtaining the transcript from the wiretap company used by magistrates.

Silvio Berlusconi's trials

  • Accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute: Verdict due in late March
  • Accused of tax fraud over deals his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films: Convicted in October 2012; appeal verdict due in March
  • Two other corruption cases involving tax evasion and bribery of a British lawyer: Expired under statute of limitations

He was convicted of breaching confidentiality.

His brother Paolo was convicted of the same charge and jailed for two years and three months.

Analysts say wiretapped conversations are widely published in Italian media, despite the risks of prosecution.

In numerous trials over the years, Mr Berlusconi has been accused of charges including accounting fraud, perjury, bribery, corruption, having unlawful sex with a minor, and fraud over the sale of film rights.

Mr Berlusconi says he is the target of a vendetta by politically biased prosecutors. He has denied all the accusations against him and has either been acquitted or let off under statutes of limitations.

More on This Story

Berlusconi's era

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

  • Two women in  JohanesburgYour pictures

    Readers' photos on the theme of South Africa


  • Worcestershire flagFlying the flag

    Preserving the identities of England's counties


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


  • The OfficeIn pictures

    Fifty landmark shows from 50 years of BBC Two


  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.