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Silvio Berlusconi convicted of tax evasion

1:26 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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A court in Italy has convicted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud and sentenced him to four years in prison.

In Italy, cases must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final. Berlusconi is expected to appeal, and CBS News producer Costanza Barone says it is possible that the second appeal will fail to conclude within the mandated timeframe, which would leave Berlusconi legally unscathed in the case.

The conviction Friday was the media mogul's first; other criminal probes and trials had ended in acquittal or were thrown out for statute of limitations.

Earlier in the week, Berlusconi had announced he wouldn't run for a fourth term. The 76-year-old media mogul wasn't in the courtroom for the verdict on the case stemming from dealings in his Mediaset business empire.

The former Italian premier is also on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old Moroccan girl for sex, then using his influence as Italian premier in 2010 to cover it up. He has denied the charges.

In a rare personal appearance at that trial earlier in October, Berlusconi said he never had sex with an underage Moroccan teen, never paid for sex with any guest at his villa near Milan and denied that so-called "bunga-bunga" parties that he held were in any way sexual.

"The expression 'bunga-bunga' comes from a joke that I have repeated many times, and that has been picked up viciously by the media," Berlusconi said during an appearance at his trial on charges of having paid for sex with Moroccan teen Karima el-Mahroug and trying to cover it up.

Berlusconi's declaration was spontaneous, a practice that Italy allows defendants and which does not have the weight of testimony. His lawyers have indicated that Berlusconi does not intend to testify in that trial.

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