Spanish version

CORRUPTION

Berlusconi, Lavítola convicted

Berlusconi will avoid jail due to the statute of limitations expiring.

Spanish version

Temas:

A court in Naples on Wednesday convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of corruption charges, accusing him of bribing a senator to weaken the government of his arch political rival.

The court also gave the media mogul a three-year prison sentence, but since the statute of limitations is expiring soon Berlusconi won't do prison time. In Italy, sentences are served only after two levels of appeals trials, which take years, are exhausted.

Berlusconi wasn't in court for the verdict. "It's a verdict that we contend is shockingly unfair and unjustified," a Berlusconi lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, told reporters.

The court also banned Berlusconi from serving in public office for five years, but, again, that punishment won't apply due to the statute of limitations expiring this fall.

Prosecutors had alleged a senator was bribed to defect from a coalition supporting then-Premier Romano Prodi, the only politician who defeated Berlusconi in elections for the premiership.

During the trial, which began in February 2014, prosecutors alleged that the senator from a tiny center-left party backing Prodi was paid 3 million euros between 2006 and 2008 to switch loyalties to Berlusconi's center-right coalition, then Parliament's biggest opposition force.

Sergio De Gregorio acknowledged accepting the money while a senator for Italy of Values, a party headed by former anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro. De Gregorio's plea bargain brought him a 20-month sentence.

The defense contended there was no proof of a deal between De Gregorio and Berlusconi and that shifting alliances are a normal part of politics in Italy.

Prodi, a former European Union commission chief, defeated Berlusconi in elections in 1996 and 2006. Prodi's second government depended on a razor-thin majority in the Senate, and it collapsed in 2008 amid bickering among allies.

Another trial defendant, Valter Lavitola, who prosecutors contended acted as a go-between between Berlusconi and De Gregorio, was convicted and also given a three-year prison term.

Lavitola has figured prominently in corruption scandals between Italian contractors and the government of Panama.

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