Italy's Berlusconi Says He Won't Step Down: 'I'm Resisting!'

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Silvio Berlusconi

The billionaire tycoon and ex-prime minister spoke about his future for the first time since a Supreme Court conviction.

ROME – To anyone who thought Silvio Berlusconi might fade into the background in the wake of his Supreme Court conviction on grounds of false accounting and tax evasion, the billionaire media mogul says it isn’t going to happen.

“I’m resisting!” Berlusconi said Monday, via social media. “I’m not giving up!”

The remarks are the first clear comments form Berlusconi about his fate after the Supreme Court ruling more than two weeks ago, the first definitive ruling against the three-time prime minister in 20 years of legal battles. The conviction was related to content deals with U.S. studios for Berlusconi's Mediaset cinema and television giant.

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The court upheld the guilty sentence from a lower court, though the four-year prison term was reduced to a year of house arrest and a ban on politics was sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. Though the sentence was now the death blow many opponents called for, it did spark wide speculation that Berlusconi could step down as head of Forza Italia, the political party he founded.

In fact, before the decision was announced, Berlusconi named his 47-year-old daughter Marina Berlusconi his political heir. But just as he did with Angelino Alfano, Italy’s current deputy prime minister who Berlusconi -- tabbed as his political heir in 2011 -- Marina Berlusconi appears to have been pushed aside so the elder Berlusconi can stay in the game.

“Rest secure that I am not stepping aside,” Berlusconi said Monday. “I will pursue the interests of Italians and the country until the very end.”

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Berlusconi -- who also faces verdicts from appeals on charges of conducting illegal wire taps and abuses of power and paying an underage girl for sex -- has been doing his best to remain visible since the Supreme Court verdict. Last week, his supporters paid for at least nine private airplanes to fly over crowded Italian beaches trailing signs supporting Berlusconi, and lieutenants have been quick to blast any public critical of the billionaire mogul.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said the Supreme Court’s sentence must be “respected,” and many European and Italian leaders have called for Berlusconi to step down. On Monday, Berlusconi made it clear he has no intention of doing that.

Twitter: @EricJLyman