An Italian appeals court has upheld the tax fraud conviction against former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He is expected to appeal the ruling in Italy's highest court.
"The court confirms the sentence against Silvio Berlusconi," a judge at the Milan court said Wednesday in a live broadcast by news channel Sky TG 24.
With the sentence upheld, the court recommended Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi serve four years in prison. He is already banned from public office for five years.
"We knew it would go like this," Berlusconi's defense lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told reporters.
Berlusconi is now expected to appeal the ruling the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest court.
In October, a court convicted Berlusconi in a scheme that involved inflating the price of film distribution rights bought by his Mediaset business empire in order to avoid taxes with him then pocketing the difference.
The 76-year-old Berlusconi denied the charges and says he has been unjustly victimized by left-wing prosecutors. However, critics say he has used his influence to avoid punishment since he entered the political scene in the early 1990s.
If his convictions are upheld throughout the appeals process for the tax fraud charges, Berlusconi is unlikely to serve the time as sentencing guidelines for people over-70 in Italy are lenient.
In March, Berlusconi was also sentenced to one year in prison over the publication of a leaked police wiretap transcripts in one of his newspapers, aimed at discrediting a political rival. He is appealing the conviction.
Berlusconi is also on trial for having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute while he was still prime minister, and then abusing his power to pressure police to have her released from custody. A verdict in that case is expected soon.
After winning nearly a third of the vote in Italy's February general election, Berlusconi's People of Freedom party is now an influential member of a newly-formed grand coalition led by leftist moderate Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)