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Former Italy PM found guilty of tax fraud

Published:Friday | October 26, 2012 | 10:56 AM


Former Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, his first prison sentence in years of criminal probes.

However the 76-year-old media mogul and billionaire businessman won't go to prison right away.

In Italy, cases must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final.

Berlusconi received a suspended sentence in 1997 for false bookkeeping, but that conviction was reversed on appeal.

Other criminal investigation probes against him on charges including corruption had ended in acquittal or were thrown out for statute of limitations.

Earlier in the week, Berlusconi had announced he wouldn't run for a fourth term.

Berlusconi, who was forced to resign a year ago in Italy's debt crisis, wasn't in the courtroom and his lawyers declined to make immediate comment, but he is expected to appeal.

Berlusconi's designated political heir as the head of the center-right party he leads, Angelino Alfano, blasted the verdict as "incomprehensible" and said he is confident an appeals court would throw out the conviction.

In this and other cases against him, Berlusconi has described himself as the innocent victim of prosecutors he contends sympathizes with the left.

Berlusconi, along with other defendants convicted in the case, must deposit a total of €10 million ($13 million) into a court-ordered fund appeals, which could take years, proceed.

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