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Berlusconi tax fraud trial: Former Italian PM 4 year jail term for tax evasion cut down to one

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to jail time for tax fraud after a six-year trial.

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Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud, but legal experts told Bloomberg that the 76-year-old is unlikely to see the inside of a jail cell. (AFP/Getty Images)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in jail for tax fraud on Friday. But within hours, that term had been cut down by 75 percent, to just one year.

An Italian court delivered the initial verdict against Berlusconi Friday after a six-year trial over the purchase of broadcast rights by his Mediaset television company, the Independent reported.

The reduction that came later in the day was attributed to a 2006 amnesty law meant to reduce prison overcrowding, the Telegraph reported.

Berlusconi and others were accused of “buying US film rights at inflated prices via two offshore companies under his control,” the BBC reported.

They then falsely declared the prices to avoid paying taxes, according to the court. Berlusconi's lawyers appealed the decision minutes after the first ruling.

Bloomberg reported that legal experts doubt Berlusconi, 76, will serve any time in jail given the lengthy appeals process and his age.

Reuters reported that the ruling came two days after the three-time prime minister said he would not contest next year’s elections.

It would appear the media baron is too busy fighting multiple court cases.

In Milan, Berlusconi is on trial over allegations he slept with an underage Moroccan prostitute known as Ruby Heart-Stealer.

Berlusconi denies the charges. He told the court last week that "there was never anything of a sexual nature" with Karima el-Marough, an alleged underage call-girl and dancer who prosecutors say was 17 when she met the Italian PM.

In spite of several previous guilty convictions, Berlusconi has never spent time in jail, the Telegraph noted.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/121026/berlusconi-tax-fraud-trial-jail