Rome

Berlusconi defence 'won't request trial delay'

Faces ban from office, proceedings to begin at supreme court

Berlusconi defence 'won't request trial delay'

Rome, July 30 - Lawyers defending three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi in an appeal against a four-year fraud sentence before the supreme Court of Cassation Tuesday said they would not ask to postpone a verdict. "On our part there will be no such request," said Franco Coppi before court was called to session. If the Cassation upholds the verdict, the prison term and a five-year ban from holding public office will become definitive. The conviction regards a system of inflated film-rights purchases at Berlusconi's Mediaset media empire and the use of offshore companies to create slush funds and dodge taxes. Berlusconi says he had nothing to do with these dealings or authorising them as he was too occupied with political matters. Because of a 2006 amnesty law, three of the four years of the sentence will not be effective, if the sentence is confirmed. As he is over 70, he would probably not serve the year in prison if definitively convicted, but be given social work or house arrest as punishment. However the five-year ban from office would kick in if, as usually happens, parliament ratifies it, in which case Berlusconi would have to step down as Senator. The Cassation may uphold the sentence, overturn it, order a retrial or delay proceedings, if this is requested by Berlusconi's defence team. Berlusconi has faced many criminal cases since becoming a politician, but he has never received a definitive conviction at the end of the appeals process. Several were timed out under the statute of limitations.

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