Milan

Ex-premier's tax-fraud ruling may be announced Wednesday

Berlusconi appealing conviction that would ban him from office

Ex-premier's tax-fraud ruling may be announced Wednesday

(updates previous) Milan, July 31 - Judges at Italy's supreme court considering whether to uphold a four-year tax-fraud conviction against ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi will retire from hearings on Wednesday and could announce their ruling that same evening, court sources said. If the Cassation upholds the verdict, the prison term and a five-year ban from holding public office for Berlusconi will become definitive, possibly causing waves in the fragile left-right government. Before Tuesday's hearings came to a close, prosecutors asked for Berlusconi's prison term to be upheld but that the previously requested five-year office ban be reduced to three. Because of a 2006 amnesty law, three of the four years of the prison sentence will not be effective if the sentence is confirmed, and as he is over 70, he would probably not have to serve the year in prison, but be given social work or house arrest as punishment. Premier Enrico Letta's government needs the support of Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party to survive. However, some PdL lawmakers have threatened the party will pull its backing and sink the government unless the sentence is overturned, saying their leader is the victim of persecution by left-wing magistrates targeting him for political reasons.

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