Rome: In a major embarrassment, Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to one year in prison following a six-year tax fraud trial.
The three-times Italy’s former premier was also barred from holding public office for three years. He was not present in the court at the time of the ruling.
The verdict was announced in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
“It is a political, incredible and intolerable judgement,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying by Italia 1 – one of the TV stations he owns. “It is without any doubt a political verdict just as all the cases invented against me are political”, he added.
As per report, 76 year old Berlusconi was earlier given four years of sentence in jail by a Milan Court but it was cut-short to one year because of 2006 amnesty law that aims at reducing prison overcrowding.
According to BBC, Berlusconi along with ten others was accused of buying US film rights at inflated prices via two offshore companies under his control.
The court has ordered him and his co-defendants to pay 10 million euros ($12.96 million) to tax authorities in damages.
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 must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final. Berlusconi is expected to appeal, the report added.
Berlusconi’s reputation has already been marred by corruption case and numerous sex allegations that include holding infamous “bunga-bunga parties” in which he reportedly had paid sex with an underage girl. Although he has denied the charges.
Last November, Berlusconi was forced to resign as the prime minister of a centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party coalition, after the country came under intense pressure following the eurozone debt crisis.
Earlier in the week, Berlusconi had announced he wouldn’t run for the post of the country’s premier again in the upcoming Italian elections.