Berlusconi is found guilty of tax fraud..Violent clashes erupt as Italy protests austerity
A court in Milan convicted former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud on Friday and sentenced him to four years in prison. Mr. Berlusconi is also currently on trial over charges that he paid for sex with an underage prostitute. He has denied the accusation.
The ruling was Mr. Berlusconi’s fourth lower-court conviction, and the first since he stepped down as prime minister in November, after years in which his personal legal battles often eclipsed the work of his government. His four-year sentence was reduced to one year under a law aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.
Besides being a blow to Mr. Berlusconi personally, the ruling comes at a time when his center-right party is unraveling and Italy is in the throes of the most dramatic political transition since the early 1990s, when he first came to power. It was just two days ago that he announced that he would not lead his party in Italy’s next elections.
“It’s without a doubt a political sentence, the way so many other trials invented against me have been political,” Mr. Berlusconi said after Friday’s ruling, calling in to a news program on a channel he owns.
A defiant Silvio Berlusconi has vowed to stay in politics to reform the very justice system that convicted him of tax fraud, and has threatened to bring down the government of the prime minster who replaced him.
On Friday a Milan court sentenced the 76-year-old to four years in jail – which was quickly reduced to one year under an amnesty law designed to tackle overcrowding in prisons – and banned him from holding public office for five years for tax fraud.
In a shock decision, the court ruled he had inflated the prices paid for television rights via offshore companies and skimming off money to create illegal slush funds.
The sentence came a week after Berlusconi denied in a separate case that he hosted raunchy parties and paid for sex with then 17-year-old exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known as Ruby the Heart Stealer.
The sex trial was one of the last in a series of scandals that helped precipitate Berlusconi’s downfall in November 2011.
The three-time premier had announced he would not run in the next election due in the spring but did not say he was withdrawing completely from political life.
On Saturday Berlusconi told a news conference his centre-right bloc may withdraw its support from the government of Mario Monti, a move that could throw Italy into political chaos ahead of next April’s national elections.
He also railed against the Italian justice system and labelled Friday’s verdict “intolerable”.
“Ours is not a democracy but a dictatorship of the magistrature… I feel obliged to stay in the (political) field to reform the planet justice,” the media tycoon said.
“There are going to be consequences.”
Asked about the legitimacy of someone who had been convicted to lead a crusade to reform the justice system, he replied: “It is not only just, it is a duty for someone who enjoys the high esteem of millions of Italians.”
“[To ensure] what is happening to me does not happen to the citizens of Italy.”
Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters in the northern Italian town of Riva del Garda as tens of thousands took to the streets of Italy in a nationwide anti-austerity demonstration dubbed ‘No Monti Day.’
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd of angry protesters who fought back with clubs and banners on the streets of Riva del Garda.
Reports say the country’s Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is seen by many as a root cause of the Italian people’s suffering, was attending a meeting in Riva del Garda when the clashes began.
The demonstration in Riva del Garda was just one out of many taking place in Italy on Saturday.
In Rome police expected some 30,000 to take to the streets, but activists estimate that up to 100,000 showed up.
Protesters marched through the city to demand more jobs, investment in schools and universities, more money for healthcare and the end of the austerity policy brokered by Monti and his technocratic cabinet.
Monti, who replaced Silvio Berlusconi last November, is accused of introducing tough austerity measures that have hit ordinary Italians hardest asthe country’s economy continues to falter.
The protests in Italy come a year after ‘Occupy Rome’ turned extremely violent as scores of masked protesters attacked police with rocks, clubs and hummers.
The rioters torched cars, smashed windows, looted shops and even set the building housing Italy’s Defense Ministry on fire.
tax fraud..is that all?
no sex charges..no bunga bunga charges?
italy also protesting over austerity.. ironically this is why silvio was removed..he wouldnt do all the reforms the troika wanted..