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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs