Silvio Berlusconi sentenced for tax fraud

Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, was sentenced to a four-year prison term for tax fraud, by a court in Milan.

Berlusconi is currently on trail for charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute as well, which he denies, The New York Timesreports.

The sentence has been lessened to a one-year prison term due to a 2006 amnesty law, designed to reduce prison overcrowding. Berlusconi says the sentence is an “intolerable judicial harassment” and he intends to appeal the ruling, in which time he will remain free.

This sentence marks the first time Berlusconi has been convicted of any business-related crimes, BBCreports. In the past, he has either been cleared of crimes or the judicial limit to prosecute has run out.

In this case, Berlusconi and others were accused of purchasing film rights from the United States at inflated prices, using two offshore companies he controlled.

Judges say that Berlusconi along with other executives from his company, Mediaset-the largest private broadcaster in Italy-had inflated program prices by using his offshore companies and then channeled the extra funds into an illegal slush fund.

In addition to Mediaset, Berlusconi has major holdings in publishing, advertising, real estate, and insurance. Over the years, he has been involved in a number of legal cases.

Berlusconi was charged with tax fraud and corruption by the lower courts in 1997 and 1998.

During a case known as the All Iberian, Berlusconi and his associates were said to have used offshore accounts in order to illegally finance the former socialist party leader, Bettino Craxi, who was known to be a political patron of Berlusconi.

Berlusconi was forced to resign from his former position as prime minister in November.

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