Prosecutors ask court to uphold Berlusconi's prison term

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 01, 2013 13:00 hrs

Milan, Mar 1 (IANS/AKI) Prosecutors in Milan Friday asked an appeals court to uphold a four-year prison sentence handed down to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud linked to his business empire.

At the appeals trial Friday, the 76-year-old media tycoon proclaimed his innocence in the case.

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

"My company group has paid six billion euros in taxes to the Italian state," he said.

Berlusconi claimed he should have been awarded a gold medal for his Mediaset group's contribution to the Italian economy.

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

The case involves a scheme to purchase rights to broadcast US movies on Berlusconi's private TV networks at inflated prices via a series of offshore companies.

The prison sentence was later reduced to one year, and both sentences have been suspended pending his appeal trial.

A verdict in the appeals trial is expected March 23.

On Thursday, prosecutors in the southern city of Naples said they were investigating Berlusconi on suspicion of paying former Italian senator Sergio De Gregorio three million euros to switch parties in 2006.

The move allegedly helped bring down the centre-left government of Romani Prodi, which had a wafer-thin Senate majority.

De Gregorio left the Italy of Values party in September 2006 and was re-elected senator for Berlusconi's conservative People of Freedom party in 2008.



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