This we know for sure: Silvio Berlusconi is still guilty of tax fraud. But the former three-time Italian prime minister and long-time media baron may never see the inside of a jail cell, on account of being a wealthy political fat cat, and also because he's really old.
An appeals court upheld the guilty verdict convicting the 76-year-old Berlusconi for tax fraud on Tuesday, sentencing him to four years in prison and a five-year ban from public office. He was originally sentenced by a lower Italian court in October. Berlusconi was accused of juicing the value on U.S. movie broadcast rights for his television channel Mediaset to avoid paying taxes. "We knew it would go like this," Niccolo Ghedini, Berlusconi's lawyer, told reporters. So that's why they're already planning another appeal — this time to Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation.
But even if Italy's version of the Supreme Court rules against Berlusconi, it's unlikely the Italian politician will ever do hard time. We will be denied the delicious image of Berlusconi in jail house blues, or the decidedly less delicious — if equally salacious — rumors of Berlusconi learning what "bunga bunga" means on the inside. "Even if his convictions are upheld throughout the appeals process, Berlusconi is unlikely ever to see the inside of a prison cell as sentencing guidelines for over-70s in Italy are lenient," the AFP explains. So yes, Italy's prisons, like America's, are overcrowded, but they don't have a whole lot of room for old people — even really famous, corrupt old Italian people cooking dinner in their cells, like Goodfellas. Berlusconi's four-year conviction was already minimized to a one-year sentence behind bars because of an overcrowded prison amnesty clause. His immense wealth and power (not to mention fantastic lawyers) have also helped Berlusconi avoid sentencing for many convictions: he's been found guilty of crimes before, and the charges have either been cleared or he's won an appeal.
He's a slippery one, Mr. Berlusconi. But, very soon, he'll also learn the verdict in his other high-profile court case. That decision, for being accused of soliciting underage prostitutes in his infamous "bunga bunga" parties, is scheduled to arrive on May 13.
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- Silvio Berlusconi