Italy’s highest court is due to decide whether it will uphold a sentence for tax fraud against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi which would see him banned from public office for five years.
Two lower courts have already found Berlusconi guilty of inflating the price his Mediaset media empire paid for TV rights to US films and then pocketing the profit. He was sentenced to four years in prison and a five year ban from public office which his lawyers appealed.
Berlusconi denies the charges and accuses magistrates of pursuing politically motivated cases.
Maurizio Bellacosa, a criminal lawyer and professor at LUISS University in Rome, says it’s unlikely the 76 year old would serve time in jail even if the sentence is approved.
“Should the sentence be confirmed, in any case Berlusconi will not go to jail, since he has two possible chances; on one side, since he is older than seventy years, he has the right to change the imprisonment with (to) home arrest. On the other side he has the right to ask for alternative measures, such as community services, since we are speaking about a short jail sentence” Bellacosa said.
The decision will be made on Tuesday. If Berlusconi is banned from office, it could throw Italy’s fragile coalition government, which relies on the support of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty (PDL) party, into crisis.
In June, Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years and banned from politics for life for paying an underage prostitute for sex and pressuring public officials to cover it up. He denies wrongdoing and is appealing that verdict as well, a process that could take a couple of years.