Late last month, a Milanese court convicted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud, the details of which are complicated and – like most things regarding the Berlusconi – slightly ludicrous. Apparently, Berlusconi and his affiliates used “a series of offshore companies to buy the rights to boradcast American movies” on Berlusconi’s private television network, and fudged the numbers to avoid paying large taxes. Then, the former prime minister relicensed the same movies at an exponentially higher price and made a profit of about 250 million euros. This is not the first time that Berlusconi has meddled with taxes: in 1997 and 1998, he was accused of similar crimes during his tenure as opposition leader to the governing party. These accusations were overturned due to the expiration of the statute of limitations; the vagaries of the Italian justice system, namely its infinitely expanding bureaucracy, do not allow for speedy convictions.
Regardless of the time it will take for a definitive verdict, it is very unlikely that Berlusconi will serve any time in jail, as he is still a member of Parliament. As well, a 2006 Amnesty law to prevent prison overcrowding has reduced his sentence from four years to one. Still, Berlusconi considers the accusation an insult to his pride, and dismisses it as nothing more than a “political sentence”, aimed at his position and not at his actions. He insists that he will stay involved in politics, although judges have prohibited him from holding public office for five years. The sentence will surely prevent him from leading his center-right party, Popolo della Liberta (People of Liberty) in the 2013 election. Berlusconi maintains that he “still [has] good muscles and some good sense” but that the conviction – as well as his declining popularity – will force him to take a backseat and stand beside “the younger people who can play and score goals.”
Mario Monti, the temporary head of state, seeks to ease the concerns of surrounding European countries over the upcoming Italian elections. The technocrat is widely lauded outside of Italy for having imposed the necessary measures to mitigate the economic crisis, but he does not intend to run for office in 2013, emphasizing his main role as senator and economic specialist. He insists that whomsoever is elected to lead Italy in 2013, the country’s commitments to the European Union will hold fast.
Photo credit: Ricardo Stuckert, wiki commons