Rome

Berlusconi fraud appeal to be heard July 30

Top court to mull 4-yr jail term, 5-yr ban from office

Berlusconi fraud appeal to be heard July 30

Rome, July 9 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's second and final appeal against a four-year jail term and a five-year ban from public office for tax fraud at his Mediaset media empire will begin hearings at the supreme Court of Cassation July 30, judicial sources said Tuesday. The centre-right leader's conviction for dodging taxes on inflated US film rights was upheld by an appeals court on May 8. On May 23 the court's explanation of its ruling said the three-time premier was involved in "enormous" fraud" even during his time as premier. The Mediaset verdict is Berlusconi's most immediate threat to being barred from office. A verdict is expected in the early autumn. The three-time premier is also facing a life ban after last month's conviction for paying an underage prostitute called Ruby for sex and abusing his office to try to cover it up. But that case, in which the court of first instance gave him seven years in jail, is set to run for much longer. Berlusconi says biased magistrates have been trying to hound him out of politics since he first became premier in 1994, and his People of Freedom Party has staged several protests against judges and prosecutors, mainly in Milan. Italy's unprecedented right-left government, where Brelusconi is the junior partner, has reportedly been mulling measures to avert the risk of him being kicked out of politics.

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