Suspended jail term for Berlusconi in wiretap case
Media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi’s seemingly never-ending battle with the Italian judiciary registered a 1-1 draw this week when the centre-right leader was acquitted in one case but given a jail term in another.
The one-year sentence for violating secrecy laws was suspended however. On Wednesday, a four-year sentence from last October for tax evasion by his Mediaset TV company was overturned by an appeals court.
In yesterday’s case Mr Berlusconi was convicted, along with his brother Paolo, of violating the secrecy laws in 2005 when the family-owned newspaper, Il Giornale, published transcripts from a judicial inquiry before they had been made public. The inquiry concerned the attempted takeover of the BNL insurance bank by insurance giant Unipol, considered close to the centre-left.
The publication of the leaks was widely seen as an attempt to discredit the then centre-left leader Piero Fassino.
Mr Berlusconi’s legal problems do not stop there. He could face two more unfavourable verdicts this month, one in another tax fraud case and the other, more critically, in the infamous Rubygate trial in which he stands accused of “involvement in child prostitution” and “abuse of office”.
Following yesterday’s verdict, Mr Berlusconi repeated denials that he was connected with wrongdoing and said the decision showed that politically motivated judges were conducting a campaign against him.
“It is impossible to tolerate judicial persecution of this kind which has been going on for 20 years and which re-emerges every time there are politically complex moments in the political life of our country,” he said.
The court awarded €80,000 in damages to Mr Fassino, who was head of the main centre-left party at the time of the incident and whose remarks were caught on the wiretap and published in the newspaper. –(Additional reporting by Reuters)