Undaunted Italian Media Mogul Silvio Berlusconi Planning to Run for EU Parliament

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Silvio Berlusconi

The three-time prime minister, stripped of his seat in Italy's Senate, is now eyeing European office.

ROME -- Stripped of his seat in Italy's Senate, facing a ban from Italian politics and dealing with a host of other personal, political and legal problems, Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi is about to launch a campaign for European Parliament.

If he wins, the controversial 77-year-old billionaire may not even be able to take his seat in the legislative body, which traditionally meets in Strasbourg, France: Because of his legal woes, Berlusconi has been forced to hand over his passport to reduce the risk he might flee the country. He might even be under house arrest when the vote takes place.

It may be an unusual time to launch a political campaign, but that hasn't curbed the enthusiasm of Berlusconi's allies. 

"I am certain Berlusconi will be a candidate," Giovanni Toti, a member of the Forza Italia political movement Berlusconi founded, said via the party's website Friday.

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Last year, Berlusconi lost his Senate seat and was obligated to serve a year of house arrest or perform a year of community service after the country's Supreme Court upheld a conviction for tax evasion and false accounting in connection with television content deals with U.S. studios. That conviction also led to the requirement he hand over his passport.

He also faces open court cases or appeals alleging illegal wire taps, bribery of public officials, abuse of power, and paying an underage girl -- then 17-year-old dancer Karima el-Mahroug -- for sex. He denies wrongdoing across the board and says the charges are all politically motivated.

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It is not clear what advantage winning a seat in the European Parliament would offer Berlusconi except to provide him with a political forum to express his views. Membership does not carry legal immunity of any kind in Italy, and with his media holdings, he has plenty of exposure.

Mediaset, the media titan Berlusconi founded, controls three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, a major cinema production and distribution company and several print media.

The elections are scheduled to take place in May.

Twitter: @EricJLyman