1. ITV Report

Silvio Berlusconi sentenced to four years for tax fraud

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Photo: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

A court in Milan has sentenced Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in prison for his part in a tax evasion scheme at his media conglomerate Mediaset.

Berlusconi, who did not appear in court today, is not likely to see the inside of a jail because the appeal process could outlast the judicial time limit on his trial.

A separate trial over accusations that Berlusconi paid for sex with an under-age prostitute is currently being heard in Milan. He denies all charges against him.

He was accused, along with ten other defendants, of channelling payments for American film rights through offshore companies and skimming off part of the money to create illegal slush funds.

Mr Berlusconi said on Wednesday he would not run for the premiership in the Spring election Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Berslusconi told one of the television stations he owns that the verdict was "unreal" and "politicised".

He said: "If you can't count on impartial judges in a country, the country becomes uncivil, barbarian and unlivable and stops being a democracy. It's sad, but the situation of our country today is that way."

Berlusconi's political opponents have hailed today's ruling a victory for the truth, but his lawyers called the verdict "absolutely incredible" and vowed to appeal.

Angelino Alfano, the secretary of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, called the verdict "incomprehensible" and said the media magnate was the victim of "judicial persecution".

Silvio Berlusconi announcing his decision not to run in the next general election Credit: EBU

Both the prison sentence and a three-year ban on him holding public office will be suspended until the appeal process has concluded.

Three other defendants, including the Hollywood producer Frank Agrama, 82, were also convicted for their involvement.

The judge ordered them to pay a total of 10 million euros (£8 million) in provisional damages pending future appeals.

A further three defendants were acquitted and four others were cleared because the judicial time limits on the cases had run out.

Judge Edoardo d'Avossa reads out the sentence Credit: EBU

The media magnate has faced a number of criminal allegations in the last few years but has either been cleared or cases have run beyond the judicial time limit.

But a trial in which he is accused of having sex with an under-age prostitute - the so-called 'Bunga Bunga' trial - is still under way.

Shares in his media conglomerate Mediaset, which is at the centre of the tax evasion case, fell by almost 3% after today's ruling.

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