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Berlusconi confident tax-fraud verdict will be reversed

Ex-premier says Italian magistrates want him out of politics

24 December, 16:17
Berlusconi confident tax-fraud verdict will be reversed (ANSA) - Trivigliano, December 24 - Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday he was confident a tax-fraud conviction against him, which is definitive for Italian law, will be overturned in Europe.

The three-time premier lost his parliamentary immunity from arrest and from being wiretapped last month when he was ejected from the Senate after the conviction was upheld by the supreme court in August.

It was the media magnate's first definitive conviction in two decades of legal battles that he alleges are the result of a campaign by left-wing elements in the judiciary to eliminate him from the political arena.

Berlusconi has also had his passport confiscated and, as a result, he was unable to attend last week's meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) in Brussels.

In the spring he is expected to start community service for the remaining one year of the tax-fraud conviction - cut from four years by an amnesty - as he is too old to actually do the sentence in prison.

The ex-premier has vowed to continue to lead his centre-right Forza Italia party, which pulled its support for Premier Enrico Letta's coalition government shortly before he was stripped of his seat, from outside parliament. He also continues to protest his innocence. He is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights and seeking to have the tax-fraud case reopened in Brescia.

"You've seen what they are doing because they want me out of Italian politics to achieve their plan of getting to government and taking power," Berlusconi said in a call to young people at a drugs rehabilitation centre.

"In Italy they has been a war for 20 years.

"They sent us home with an absurd accusation. Now they have expelled me from the Senate and made me unable to stand (in elections).

"I'm sure that the European court will reverse my conviction. You'll see, they won't even let me take part in election campaigns". The 77-year-old reiterated his assertion that his ejection from parliament was the latest in a series of "coups" that the centre right has suffered over the last two decades.

Such talk earned Berlusconi a reprimand from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who told him to stop speaking of "imaginary coups".

Berlusconi is also appealing convictions for having sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power to cover it up, and for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap.

He has been indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides too and is being investigated in other criminal probes.