Recentlythe infamous former Prime Minister of Italy was sentenced to four years jail time a few weeks ago for tax fraud in relation to Mediaset, the broadcasting company in which he holds a majority stake.  The headlines on the online editions of newspapers across the globe must surely have excited joy or at the very least appreciation in the minds of many of the readers.  Berlusconi’s reign as three time Italian Prime Minister has long been ridiculed worldwide; his gaffes are infamous (we all remember his remarks about Obama), he has been the subject of numerous court trials, suspected by some of Mafia links and generally seen to be an ineffective leader of Italy.

Since his resignation in November of last year, Berlusconi has been in the spotlight over the “Ruby Rubacuori” (Ruby the Heart-Stealer) case; where he has been accused of having under-age sex with Karima El-Mahroug at one of his so-called “bunga-bunga” nights.  Both parties deny the accusations and the case is on going.

In comparison a case about tax fraud seems rather less glamorous, yet the sentence given does mark an important turn of events.  It is the first time Berlusconi has been convicted. Despite being accused and brought to court on numerous occasions he has always been cleared or the cases have over-run the judicial court limit.

The ruling has a number of serious implications for the former prime minister: he will not be able to stand for a position of public office for three years (a few days ago he declared that he would not stand for office in next year’s elections), Mediaset has taken a financial hit with share prices falling by 3% and if the conviction stands after two reviews in the courts of appeal then Berlusconi would have to spend time behind bars.

However here in lies the crux of the matter; the appeals could well take years to complete and in reality Berlusconi is unlikely to ever have to serve time.  Secondly if the conviction does hold through the successive appeals Berlusconi would only have to serve one year’s jail time rather than four years due to an amnesty law passed in 2006 to stop prison overcrowding.  Hence the don’t get your hopes up…..

Berlusconi was not present at the sentencing and it’s to be expected that over the coming months he will offer some typical “Berlusconisms” in response; expect a tirade against the judges out to get him, the Communist left destroying capitalist ventures and such like.  Whilst the immediate reaction of joy at the news of the conviction was tempered by the constraints of the Italian legal system, it does mean that we are distinctly unlikely to see him holding office for a fourth time.  Considering his remarkable ability to bounce back from media scandals, this small mercy is to be praised.

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