'Berlusconi MPs will resign if ex-PM banned from office'

Gasparri 'pessimistic' about Constitutional Court ruling

'Berlusconi MPs will resign if ex-PM banned from office'

(updates previous) Rome, June 19 - A leading figure in Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party said Wednesday that all of their MPs would resign if the ex-premier were to be banned from holding public office. "The resignations of all PdL MPs (will be the result)," said Deputy Senate Speaker Maurizio Gasparri. "I'm crossing my fingers...because I should be pessimistic". The three-time premier is currently challenging a tax-fraud conviction, which was upheld last month, for TV rights bought by his Mediaset media empire. According to judges in Milan, there was oral and written evidence that Berlusconi "directly managed" the first stages of an "enormous tax-evasion" scam using offshore companies. Berlusconi is appealing the four-year prison sentence as well as the five-year ban from public office. The Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule Wednesday on assertions by his lawyers who argue that since the media mogul was premier at the time of the original 2010 hearing, that hearing should never have taken place due his right to "legitimate impediment" that was denied. "I hope that (the Constitutional Court) shows good sense and responds to the truth: there was a legitimate impediment". The ruling Wednesday is considered an intermediate step in Berlusconi's appeal process. The supreme Court of Cassation will have the final word.

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