Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

Europe

Italy’s top court deliberates Berlusconi tax fraud conviction

© AFP

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-07-30

Italy’s highest court began hearings on Tuesday to decide whether former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi should be jailed and banned from public office for tax fraud, in a case involving his Mediaset media empire.

Italy’s supreme court convenes on Tuesday to rule whether Silvio Berlusconi should be jailed and banned from public office for tax fraud, a verdict that could endanger Italy’s shaky coalition government.

A ruling against the former prime minister would be his first definitive conviction and signal the end of an era in which he has dominated Italian politics for two decades through his media power and political skill.

It could also plunge the government - an uneasy coalition of Enrico Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) - into crisis and bring renewed uncertainty to the euro zone third’s largest economy that could reverberate across the bloc.

The five judges of the Cassation Court - Italy’s highest -will hear a final appeal by Berlusconi against a 1-year jail sentence and 5-year ban from office handed down by lower courts for the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset media empire.

The court may take up to three days to deliver its ruling.

Berlusconi, 76, accuses leftwing magistrates of trying to bring him down in more than two dozen court cases since he stormed to power for the first time in 1994.

Although they are waiting for a signal from Berlusconi, PDL hawks have called for everything from a mass resignation of its government ministers to blocking Italy’s motorways if the court rules against him.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior PDL parliamentarian, said the media magnate had faced 30 trials. “If this is not a political use of justice what is?”

The departure of Berlusconi from parliament if he is convicted would also raise major questions about the future of his party, which depends on his charisma and wealth.

But a greater risk to the government could come from Letta’s faction-ridden PD, many of whose members are already deeply unhappy with being in a coalition with their old enemy, and may refuse to continue if he is found guilty.

Chaotic

However, both President Giorgio Napolitano, who dragged the parties into a coalition in April after a two-month crisis that followed inconclusive elections, and Letta himself are adamant that Italy cannot afford more instability as it struggles to climb out of its worst postwar recession.

Both of the major parties may also be reluctant to precipitate an election whose result could be even more chaotic than the February vote and boost support for the populist 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.

Berlusconi has for months kept his hawks on a tight leash, saying the government must continue.

However, political sources say this stance was dictated by Berlusconi’s lawyers, who wanted to avoid upsetting the supreme court judges. The mercurial magnate’s reaction if he is found guilty is uncertain.

Berlusconi’s lawyers have filed 50 objections to the supreme court, which will rule only on legal procedure and whether the previous appeal court properly justified its sentence.

The court has three choices: convict Berlusconi, acquit him or send the case back to the appeal court because of legal errors. It could also postpone a decision, probably until September - a move advocated by moderate politicians who want to avoid a summer crisis.

Even if Berlusconi is found guilty, his ban from public office depends on a vote by his peers in the Senate which could take weeks or months.

The scandal-plagued mogul is also appealing against a seven- year jail term handed down in June for abuse of office and paying for sex with Moroccan-born nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug alias “Ruby the Heartstealer” when she was underage.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-07-30

  • ITALY

    Berlusconi sentenced to prison in ‘Rubygate’ sex trial

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Italian court upholds Berlusconi tax fraud conviction

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Berlusconi given one-year sentence in wiretap trial

    Read more

COMMENT(S)