Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four
years in prison Friday by a court for tax evasion following a six-year
tax fraud trial.
A court in Milan Friday ruled that Berlusconi is to be jailed for four years, the Daily Express reported. He was not present in the court.
The verdict came just days after 76-year-old Berlusconi, infamous for his relationships with 'bunga bunga girls', announced he would not be standing for the post of the country's premier again in the upcoming Italian elections.
Berlusconi has been a three-time prime minister of Italy. But he stepped down last November after the country came under intense pressure following the eurozone debt crisis.
Prosecutors alleged that the Italian TV
media mogul was behind a scheme to purchase the rights to broadcast US
movies on his private TV networks through a series of offshore companies
and had falsely declared the payments to avoid taxes.
The trial had begun in July 2006. But it was put on hold by a now-defunct immunity law shielding Berlusconi from prosecution while he was premier until it was watered down by the constitutional court.
Berlusconi's designated political heir, Angelino Alfano, criticised the verdict as "incomprehensible" and said he was confident an appeals court would throw out the conviction, an Australian media report said.
The conviction was the media mogul's first in a long series of trials. It, however, did not mean that Berlusconi would right away go to prison. In Italy, cases are required to pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final, the report added.
Last Friday, Berlusconi appeared in court to deny links to underage prostitutes and refute charges that he misused his office, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported.