ROME – Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered by a Milan court to spend a year doing community service instead of serving a one-year prison sentence following his conviction last year for tax fraud in a case pertaining to Hollywood movie deals done by his Mediaset TV empire.
The court on Tuesday ruled that the former Italian prime minister and media mogul must spend at least four hours a week in a center for the elderly near Milan for a year, and restricted his travels in a way that may curtail the still active pol’s ability to campaign for next month’s European Parliament elections.
Though banned in November 2013 from the Italian Senate, following his conviction in August last year, the 77-year-old billionaire remains the most influential politician on Italy’s center-right, as leader of his Forza Italia party. Forza Italia is still Italy’s second or third largest force with about 20 percent of the vote, according to opinion polls, despite the fact that a split and increasing internecine warfare are taking their toll.
Berlusconi’s lawyers said in a statement that the ruling “appears balanced and satisfactory even with regards to the needs of political activity.”
Berlusconi is not likely to be allowed to run for European parliament himself but he can campaign in support of other Forza Italia party members.
Berlusconi and his lawyers continue to maintain his innocence in the case which stems from $678 million in movie rights purchased during the 1990s by Mediaset from Hollywood studios, including Paramount and Fox, through offshore companies at inflated prices to allegedly evade taxes and create a slush fund.
Tuesday’s ruling is not expected to impact Mediaset.