Silvio Berlusconi Says He's Not Finished, Despite String of Setbacks
ROME – Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi said it is too early to count him out of the political game, saying the effort to kick him out of parliament was based on a lie and expressing confidence he would prevail in the end.
The 77-year-old billionaire has faced a withering series of personal, political, and legal setbacks in recent months: The Supreme Court held up his lower court conviction for false accounting and tax evasion, prompting parliament to vote on whether to strip him of his senate seat.
Berlusconi also faces three more legal cases, alleging, among other things, bribery, illegal wiretaps, abuse of power and paying an underage girl for sex. Add to all that that his political coalition appears to be splintering despite his efforts to hold it together.
But Berlusconi -- who controls the Mediaset television and cinema giant as well as the AC Milan soccer club -- used a sports metaphor to show he is undeterred: "The game is a long way from the final whistle," he said.
Berlusconi added: "The sentence that condemned me is based on a falsehood and it is clear it will be revered soon."
He is referring to the Supreme Court’s Aug. 1 decision to uphold the lower court's conviction on false accounting and tax evasion on more than $300 million in content deals with U.S. movie studios. The decision represented the first time Berlusconi had been definitively convicted of a crime over more than 20 years of legal problems, though the higher court reduced the four-year jail term to a year of house arrest or community service, and the six-year ban from politics was reduced to two.
The Supreme Court ruling cannot be further appealed in Italy, but Berlusconi's lawyers filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, charging that the Supreme Court trampled on his rights with its ruling. Political analysts say chances the European court would take action on the case were extremely slim, but Berlusconi continues to claim innocence and appears to believe the ruling will be overturned.