Former Italian PM convicted of bribery for paying senator $3M

By Doug G. Ware  |  July 8, 2015 at 11:52 PM
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NAPLES, Italy, July 8 (UPI) -- Silvio Berlusconi, Italian media mogul and Rome's former prime minister, was convicted of bribery Wednesday stemming from accusations that he paid money to bring down the government of longtime political opponent Romano Prodi in 2008.

Berlusconi, 78, has been involved in multiple court cases in recent years. Former senator Sergio De Gregorio told authorities he received about $3.3 million from Berlusconi between 2006 and 2008 to switch coalitions -- and that several other lawmakers may have done the same.

De Gregorio was ultimately sentenced to 20 months in prison for receiving the money, which Berlusconi claimed was intended to fund the senator's political movement -- not the downfall of Prodi's government. However, officials said, De Gregorio's change in allegiance helped trigger Prodi's demise and pave the way for Berlusconi's third term in late 2008.

A Naples court convicted the former prime minister in the case Wednesday and recommended that he serve three years in prison.

The New York Times reported that Berlusconi will not serve that sentence, however, because the statute of limitations expires this year, and the case still needs to go through lengthy appeals processes first.

Last March, Berlusconi completed mandated community service for tax fraud and was subsequently acquitted of having sex with an underage girl at a party he supposedly organized at his home.

Wednesday's verdict also recommends that Berlusconi be banned from holding public office for five years. He is already prohibited from holding a parliamentary seat due to his tax fraud conviction.

Berlusconi was outraged by Wednesday's verdict and claimed to be a victim of "judicial persecution," the Financial Times reported.

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