MILAN, Italy, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was convicted Friday of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison in Milan, Italy.
Berlusconi, 76, who has dominated Italian politics for two decades, was found guilty of using offshore companies to avoid taxes in the trading of rights to American films for television broadcasts by his television network Mediaset. With two levels of judiciary appeals available to him, it could take years before the case is resolved and it is possible he will never see prison, the Italian news agency ANSA said Friday.
In addition to the prison sentence Berlusconi was banned from political office for three years. He said this week he did not intend to run for premier in the April 2013 election.
The trial, which included 10 other defendants, was one of three trials in progress involving Berlusconi -- one of which includes accusations he had sex with an alleged underage Moroccan prostitute and used his governmental position to suppress the information. Prosecutors contend he had sex with 33 prostitutes during parties at his villa near Milan during the course of several months, the news agency said.
Berlusconi testified at a hearing last week that he never had a sexual relationship with alleged prostitute, and claimed he had never paid for sex.
In the matter of the alleged prostitutes, Berlusconi's private physician, Alberto Zangrillo, told the court Friday he had warned his patient to avoid excessive "commotion" or "excitement," and testified he had only seen "bodies moving in time to the music, dancing, and nothing striking" at Berlusconi's parties.
Three people are face charges in a separate trial of supplying prostitutes, including underage prostitutes.
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