Rome

No proof Berlusconi involved in crime, says defence lawyer

Cassation set to rule on appeal against four-year term

No proof Berlusconi involved in crime, says defence lawyer

Rome, July 31 - Silvio Berlusconi's defence team on Wednesday told Italy's supreme court that there is no proof the ex-premier was involved in the tax fraud at his media empire. Judges at Italy's supreme Court of Cassation are considering whether to uphold a four-year prison term and five-year ban on holding public office against the media tycoon. A decision is expected Thursday. The ruling is being hotly awaited, in part because of the possible consequences it could have for Premier Enrico Letta's fragile left-right government, which needs the support of Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party to survive. If the Cassation upholds the verdict, if will be the first time Berlusconi, who has been at the centre of many criminal cases since he started his political career two decades ago, has received a definitive conviction. "An element of proof that Berlusconi may have taken part in the actual crime is lacking in the fabric of the sentence," said Niccolò Ghedini, one of Berlusconi's lawyers. The four-year 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. Prosecutors say this enabled Berlusconi to dodge taxes on around seven million euros in 2002 and 2003. Berlusconi says he had nothing to do with these dealings or authorising them as he was too occupied with political matters. He was premier at the time. State prosecutors on Tuesday requested that a five-year ban on holding public office handed down at the previous two trials be reduced to three years.

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