Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has been sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Milan for tax fraud. This comes as a blow to the media mogul who just two days ago said he would not run for office as leader of the People of Freedom Party. The ruling also said that Berlusconi couldn't run for public office for three years. Why stack that on top when he is supposed to be in jail four years anyway? Well, because it's unlikely he will go to jail in the first place.
Berlusconi has always been a rather uncouth character in Italian politics. He was well known for his “bunga bunga” parties — one of which ended up with him being charged with having sexual relations with a minor. Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister of Italy last year after failing to steer the country out of financial catastrophe, and right after economic austerity measures were implemented. He was succeeded by the technocratic government of Mario Monti.
Silvio and members of his company, Mediaset, have been prosecuted for inflating the prices payed for TV rights and funneling the excess money into slush funds. However, the chance that Berlusconi actually serves his time is very slim. He still has two appeals left to go through, which he surely will, and considering that it took six years for this trial to reach its conclusion, it's very unlikely this 76 year old man will spend a day in jail. Plus, the statute of limitations on this case is expected to expire next year, and with an appeal in the works, Berlusconi may simply be able to run out the clock.
However, even if Berlusconi stays out of jail, at least these allegations have kept him from running from office again. Italy is in dire straights financially and Berlusconi's populism was a distraction from reasonable, but painful, choices Italians really had to make. Berlusconi has certainly disgraced himself, but the question is did he do it to a degree so as to deter other deep pocketed media types from attempting to run a country like a personal media firm.
Photos from Berlusconi's bunga bunga parties: