News / Europe

    Berlusconi's Final Tax Fraud Appeal Hearing Set

    People of Freedom party member Silvio Berlusconi makes an address on stage in Brescia, May 11, 2013.
    People of Freedom party member Silvio Berlusconi makes an address on stage in Brescia, May 11, 2013.
    Reuters
    Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's final appeal against a prison term and a ban for tax fraud is expected to be heard in court on July 30, much earlier than expected, his lawyers said on Tuesday.
     
    The speeded-up timetable heightened the pressures on Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fragile coalition government, which depends on the 76-year-old Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party (PDL).
     
    Berlusconi was sentenced last year to four years' jail with a five-year ban on holding public office, for complicity in tax fraud at his Mediaset television empire, a decision that was upheld on appeal in May.
     
    Although he may avoid jail due to his age if the sentence is confirmed, a ban on public office, depriving him of his seat in parliament, would deepen the problems bedeviling a government already divided over key elements of tax and economic policy.
     
    Berlusconi, who often says leftist magistrates want to destroy him politically, is not a minister but plays a big behind-the-scenes role ensuring the stability of the coalition with his rivals in the center-left Democratic Party (PD).
     
    However Letta insisted that whatever the result of the hearing, the government would continue.
     
    “I am convinced there will not be any consequences for the survival of the government,” he told a talk show on RAI state television.
     
    A final appeal had been expected at the end of the year with reports in Italian newspapers speculating that the court could run into the statute of limitations at least on some of the charges, potentially curbing any sentence against Berlusconi.
     
    However the decision to schedule the final appeal hearing before the normal summer break caught his legal team off guard and drew a furious reaction.

    'Astonished'
     
    “I have never seen a hearing programmed as quickly as this. I am astonished,” one of Berlusconi's lawyers, Franco Coppi, told Reuters. “This is a real squeeze on the rights of the defense.”
     
    Under the Italian system, a sentence is not enforced until the appeals process has been exhausted but if the verdict against the billionaire media tycoon is upheld, he will have no more right of appeal.
     
    In a caustic comment on the timing of the hearing, Gaetano Quagliariello, minister for constitutional reform and a member of the PDL, said it contrasted sharply with the normal snail's pace of the Italian justice system.
     
    “One can only hope that people will realize that the question of justice is not only a problem for Silvio Berlusconi or the center-right but is affecting our whole state,” he said in a statement.
     
    Berlusconi has pledged to continue supporting Letta's coalition but some hardliners in his party have threatened protests if the verdict goes against him.
     
    “We can't waste time hesitating and splitting hairs, it will be time to take action,” Daniela Santanche, one of Berlusconi's most loyal allies, said.
     
    The tax fraud trial is only one of a series of legal battles against Berlusconi, who was sentenced last month to seven years' jail for paying for sex with a minor in the “bunga bunga” case involving former teenaged nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, alias “Ruby the Heartstealer”.
     
    He faces a separate investigation by Naples magistrates into allegations that he bribed a former senator to change sides in 2006 to help bring down the government of center-left prime minister Romano Prodi.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora