|File photo taken on Aug. 3, 2011 shows Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attend a session at the lower house of the parliament in Rome, Italy. A Milan court on Friday sentenced Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company. (Photo/Xinhua)|
ROME, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- The international headlines screamed "Berlusconi jailed for four years" on Friday as long-time opponents popped champagne corks outside the Milan court where the sentence was pronounced.
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was found guilty of tax fraud and was banned from holding public office for five years. After more than 2,500 appearances at over 30 court cases since he was first elected in 1994, here was a sentence that could finally bring him undone.
The court found that the billionaire media tycoon had artificially inflated the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset empire and of creating foreign slush funds to avoid paying taxes in Italy. He and 10 other defendants were ordered to pay 10 million euros to Italian tax authorities.
Yet the sentence was immediately reduced to one year under a 2006 amnesty law. The former leader can also appeal the ruling two more times, and the statute of limitations could time out next year before the decision takes effect.
"He will not be convicted," Sergio Fabbrini, political science professor and head of the school of government at Rome's Luiss University, told Xinhua on Monday. "This will take some time, probably years. This is the first step of a three-step procedure."
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