Silvio Berlusconi Banned From Politics for Two Years
The billionaire media tycoon has suffered a series of setbacks, but his Mediaset empire is benefiting from his woes.
ROME – The bad news keeps rolling in for Italy's billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, with a Milan court ruling over the weekend that he cannot hold public office for the next two years.
The public-office ban is the latest result of Berlusconi's definitive conviction for tax fraud and false accounting in August. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court conviction, sentencing the three-time prime minister to a year of house arrest and community service and, earlier this month, parliament's lower house voted to strip him of his Senate seat.
The ban from politics, originally for five years, was not upheld by the Supreme Court in its ruling in August. It required the lower court to reconsider that part of the verdict so that it complied with the one- to three-year guidelines in the law. Berlusconi's lawyers asked for the one-year minimum, but the court gave him a two-year ban.
Berlusconi is expected to appeal the ruling. But that's only part of the steady stream of bad news the 77-year-old has endured in recent weeks.
If the Senate upholds the lower house vote to take Berlusconi's parliamentary seat, that would deprive him of parliamentary immunity at a time when he is facing verdicts on two other cases: one for illegal wiretaps and the other for abuse of power and paying an underage girl -- Karima el-Mahroug, best known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer" -- for sex.
And if the two-year ban from politics sticks, it could make it increasingly difficult for Berlusconi to hold onto the reins of power in the political movement he founded two decades ago. Italian news reports in recent days have recounted the risk that Berlusconi's party, the second-largest in the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, could splinter into factions.
Through it all, however, Berlusconi's Mediaset television and cinema giant has done well. On Monday, the company's shares closed at €3.83 ($5.17), up nearly 2 percent and more than triple the all-time low of €1.16 ($1.57) set last December. Since worries of a protracted political battle headed by Berlusconi caused the shares to fall three weeks ago, Mediaset stock has gained nearly 30 percent.