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Berlusconi gets three years in corruption case

July 8, 2015

An Italian court has given former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi three years in prison in a corruption case. The court found him guilty of bribing a senator in 2006 in order to topple the then center-left government.

Italian authorities have accused the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of paying more than 10 million euros to buy the silence of 21 girls who testified in the so-called 'Bunga Bunga' trial. Italy, Rome - April 24, 2014
Image: picture-alliance/ROPI

The former premier will also be banned from holding any public office for five years, a court in Naples ruled Wednesday.

Berlusconi, however, won't have to serve the sentence, as the statute of limitations is going to expire well before any appeal can be heard. In Italy, sentences are served only when the process of two levels of appeals is exhausted.

The four-time prime minister, who is trying to rebuild his political career, denies the charges against him as politically motivated.

The trial began in February 2014. According to the prosecutors, a politician from a small center-left party supporting former Prime Minister Romano Prodi was paid 3 million euros ($3.3 million) between 2006 and 2008 to switch loyalties to Berlusconi.

Senator De Gregorio had confessed to receiving the money. Berlusconi's lawyers defended the payments as legitimate financial support to an ally.

Prodi, who also served as European Commission's president, told the ANSA news agency that he was unaware of the bribery.

"If I had known about it, I would still be prime minister," he said.

Berlusconi didn't immediately react to the verdict, but a senator for his Forza Italia party denounced the ruling.

"We find this verdict resoundingly unfair and unjustified," Niccolo Ghedini, who is also a member of the defense council, told the media.

shs/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)