Silvio Berlusconi Convicted Over IIlegal Wiretap, Given One Year Jail Sentence

Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted and sentenced to a one year year jail term on a charge of breach of confidentiality for the illegal publication of wiretapped conversations which were then leaked to a newspaper owned by his family.

The former Italian premier is accused of arranging a police wiretap of a political rival then organizing for the transcript to be leaked to his brother’s newspaper.

The 76-year-old has denied any wrongdoing and is expected to appeal the sentence.

Although the court sentenced him to one year in jail, it also issued no orders about when that sentence should begin. In Italy, prison sentences for non-violent crimes do not usually become effective until all possible appeal avenues have been exhausted.

Berlusconi’s brother, Paolo Berlusconi, was convicted of the same charge and sentenced to two years and three months. Paolo Berlusconi is the publisher of Milan newspaper Il Giornale, that published the transcript of the conversation.

The case arose after the 2005 publication of a wiretapped call between one of Berlusconi’s political rivals, Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, the former chairman of Unipol — which is an insurers group.

The call was part of an investigation into Unipol’s failed bid to take over the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. The bid was later blocked by Italy’s central bank, which led to the resignation of the then Bank of Italy chief Antonio Fazio.

Fassino was recorded saying “we have a bank!” before the bid fell through, and was subsequently widely criticized for his remark in Italian media, financial, and political circles.

The leaking of wiretapped conversations and their publication by the media is endemic in Italy.

Last October, Berlusconi was convicted on tax fraud charges and is currently appealing his four-year sentence. Prosecutors have demanded his sentence is upheld and have also asked for a five year ban from public office. A verdict in that appeal is expected shortly.

The scandal-ridden politician is also on trial in Milan for allegedly paying a then-underage teenage girl for sex and lying to conceal it. Further, prosecutors in Naples are investigating Berlusconi for corruption for allegedly paying an opposition lawmaker $3.9 million (€3 million) to join his center-right coalition party.

The verdict in today’s case will not affect Berlusconi’s eligibility for office in a new government. In Italy there is no law banning those convicted of non-violent crimes from parliament. Last week Berlusconi’s center-right coalition finished third in parliamentary elections, with no clear winner emerging in the results.

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