Silvio Berlusconi and his co-defendants were also told to pay damages provisionally set at €10m. Photograph: David Gadd/Allstar/Sportsphoto Ltd
An Italian court has sentenced Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
The former Italian prime minister has the right to appeal against the ruling two more times before the sentence becomes definitive and will not be jailed unless the final appeal is upheld. Prosecutors had asked for a jail sentence of three years and eight months.
The court also ordered damages provisionally set at €10m to be paid by Berlusconi and his co-defendants to tax authorities.
The ruling comes two days after Berlusconi, 76, confirmed he would not run in next year’s elections as the leader of his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party.
A separate trial over accusations that Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage prostitute is currently being heard in Milan. He denies all charges against him.
The four-time prime minister and other Mediaset executives stood accused of inflating the price paid for TV rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi, and skimming off part of the money to create illegal slush funds.
Angelino Alfano, secretary of the PDL, said the ruling proved once again “judicial persecution” of the media-magnate, while a political rival, Antonio Di Pietro, a former magistrate, hailed the decision, saying: “The truth has been exposed.”
The court acquitted the Mediaset chairman and long-term Berlusconi friend Fedele Confalonieri, for whom prosecutors had sought a sentence of three years and four months.