AC Milan owner and former Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to four years in jail for tax evasion.
Berlusconi is expected to appeal against the sentence, the first he has been given after a number of previous trials and inquiries found in his favor.
He has also been barred from holding public office for three years. The 76-year-old media tycoon was not in the courtroom for the verdict on the case which stems from dealings in his Mediaset business empire.
The prosecution had claimed Berlusconi – and 10 other defendants – had bought television rights for US films through a series of offshore companies, before falsely declaring the payments in order to avoid taxes.
Berlusconi, 76, was Italy’s longest-serving post-war Prime Minister, but he resigned last November over his country’s debt crisis. He remained AC Milan’s president and owner, as well as Italy’s richest man. It is not clear yet what the consequences of Berlusconi’s imprisonment will be for the Rossoneri.
The Milan chief condemned his tax fraud convicition as “unreal” and said it was the result of “politicized” judges who have made Italy unlivable and no longer a democracy.
Berlusconi spoke to his Mediaset television station Friday after a Milan court convicted him of tax fraud concerning the purchase of rights to broadcast US movies on his private TV networks. He was sentenced to four years in prison though he remains free until all appeals are exhausted.
Berlusconi has long denounced what he considers left-leaning magistrates pursuing political cases against him. He said Friday that “if you can’t count on impartial judges in a country, the country becomes uncivil, barbarian and unlivable and stops being a democracy. It’s sad, but the situation of our country today is that way.”