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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs