High Court Upholds Politics Ban For Italian Media Mogul Silvio Berlusconi

5:21 PM PST 03/18/2014 by Eric J. Lyman
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Silvio Berlusconi

The ruling could throw a wrench into the former prime minister's plans to run for a seat in the European Parliament.

ROME -- Italy's highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld a two-year ban from running for office in Italy for media kingpin Silvio Berlusconi, the latest in a long series of setbacks for the 77-year-old billionaire.

Berlusconi was definitively convicted last year of false accounting and tax evasion in connection with a set of content acquisition deals with U.S. film studios. The conviction included a four-year jail term reduced to a year of either community service of house arrest because of Berlusconi's advanced age. The ruling also included a ban from politics, but Berlusconi's lawyers appealed that part of the decision until the Court of Cassation upheld it.

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Berlusconi had already been stripped of his Senate seat in a separate action, and the ban now prevents him from running for any Italian office. But it is not clear whether it mean Berlusconi cannot run for a seat in the European Parliament, something ally Giovanni Toti said last week Berlusconi was considering.

"We are extremely disappointed," Berlusconi attorney Niccolo Ghedini said after the verdict was announced, adding the former prime minister's legal team would study Berlusconi's options going forward.

Berlusconi is one of the richest media figures in the world. His Mediaset cinema and television giant controls three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, plus the Medusa cinema production and distribution house, and several print media.

The false accounting and tax evasion case is not the only legal problem Berlusconi faces: He is also on trial for or appealing cases alleging bribery, illegal wire taps, abuse of power and paying then 17-year-old cabaret dancer Karima el-Mahroug for sex. Berlusconi denies wrongdoing in all the cases.

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