Berlusconi proclaims innocence at tax fraud trial

Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday proclaimed his innocence at an appeal trial in Milan against a tax fraud conviction linked to his business empire.

"I am completely extraneous to the facts that I am accused of," the billionaire tycoon told the court.

The 76-year-old Berlusconi was convicted in October 2012 and sentenced to four years in prison and a five-year ban from holding public office.

The prison sentence was later reduced to one year and both sentences have been suspended pending his appeal trial, which was interrupted by elections in which Berlusconi led a centre-right coalition.

"Instead of getting a gold medal from the state for giving jobs to 56,000 people, I was sentenced to four years in prison," he told the court.

A verdict in the case is expected on March 23.