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Berlusconi guilty of tax evasion

  • FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

  • FILE -  In this June 25, 2010 filer Italian soccer team captain Fabio Cannavaro attends a press conference at Casa Azzurri, in Irene, near Pretoria, South Africa. Serie A title-contender Napoli and team captain Paolo Cannavaro have been ordered by the Italian football federation to face match-fixing allegations. Current and former Napoli players Gianluca Grava and Matteo Gianello and former Napoli assistant Silvio Giusti were also called in for questioning over the May 16, 2010, Sampdoria-Napoli match. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Files)

    FILE - In this June 25, 2010 filer Italian soccer team captain Fabio Cannavaro attends a press conference at Casa Azzurri, in Irene, near Pretoria, South Africa. Serie A title-contender Napoli and team captain Paolo Cannavaro have been ordered by the Italian football federation to face match-fixing allegations. Current and former Napoli players Gianluca Grava and Matteo Gianello and former Napoli assistant Silvio Giusti were also called in for questioning over the May 16, 2010, Sampdoria-Napoli match. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Files)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi wipes his forehead during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi wipes his forehead during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2011 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi grimaces during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2011 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi grimaces during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

  • File- In this Thursday, March 8, 2012 file photo, then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, center, and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, smile during their meeting in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia. A court in Italy has convicted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud and sentenced him to four-years in prison. Berlusconi is expected to appeal. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)

    File- In this Thursday, March 8, 2012 file photo, then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, center, and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, smile during their meeting in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia. A court in Italy has convicted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud and sentenced him to four-years in prison. Berlusconi is expected to appeal. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)

  • In this photo released by the Berlusconi press office Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi tapes a video message where he announces he will not run for a fourth term as premier in spring elections. Berlusconi has until now been coy about his intentions. But the three-time former premier posted a statement on his movement's website yesterday, under the headline: "I won't run for premier.", following today with a video where he confirms his intentions. (AP Photo/Livio Anticoli, Berlusconi press office)

    In this photo released by the Berlusconi press office Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi tapes a video message where he announces he will not run for a fourth term as premier in spring elections. Berlusconi has until now been coy about his intentions. But the three-time former premier posted a statement on his movement's website yesterday, under the headline: "I won't run for premier.", following today with a video where he confirms his intentions. (AP Photo/Livio Anticoli, Berlusconi press office)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi reacts during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
  • FILE -  In this June 25, 2010 filer Italian soccer team captain Fabio Cannavaro attends a press conference at Casa Azzurri, in Irene, near Pretoria, South Africa. Serie A title-contender Napoli and team captain Paolo Cannavaro have been ordered by the Italian football federation to face match-fixing allegations. Current and former Napoli players Gianluca Grava and Matteo Gianello and former Napoli assistant Silvio Giusti were also called in for questioning over the May 16, 2010, Sampdoria-Napoli match. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Files)
  • FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi wipes his forehead during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
  • FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2011 file photo, Italian former premier Silvio Berlusconi grimaces during a press conference in Rome, Italy. A court in Italy has convicted, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 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. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)
  • File- In this Thursday, March 8, 2012 file photo, then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, center, and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, smile during their meeting in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia. A court in Italy has convicted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud and sentenced him to four-years in prison. Berlusconi is expected to appeal. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)
  • In this photo released by the Berlusconi press office Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi tapes a video message where he announces he will not run for a fourth term as premier in spring elections. Berlusconi has until now been coy about his intentions. But the three-time former premier posted a statement on his movement's website yesterday, under the headline: "I won't run for premier.", following today with a video where he confirms his intentions. (AP Photo/Livio Anticoli, Berlusconi press office)

The 76-year-old billionaire businessman won’t go to prison right away. In Italy, cases must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final.

Berlusconi received a suspended sentence in 1997 for false bookkeeping, but that conviction was reversed on appeal. Other criminal investigation probes against him on charges including corruption 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. He was forced to resign a year ago in Italy’s debt crisis, wasn’t in the courtroom. His lawyers declined to make immediate comment, but he is expected to appeal.

Berlusconi’s designated political heir as the head of the center-right party he leads, Angelino Alfano, blasted the verdict as ‘‘incomprehensible.”

He said he is confident an appeals court would throw out the conviction.

In this and other cases against him, Berlusconi has described himself as the innocent victim of prosecutors he contends sympathize with the left.

Berlusconi, along with other defendants convicted in the case, must deposit a total of (euro) 10 million ($13 million) into a court-ordered fund appeals, which could take years, proceed.

Prosecutors alleged that the defendants were behind a scheme to purchase the rights to broadcast U.S. movies on Berlusconi’s private TV networks in his Mediaset empire through a series of offshore companies and had falsely declared the payments to avoid taxes.

A total of 11 people were on trial.

Three were acquitted, including a close associate of Berlusconi, Fedele Confalonieri, chairman of Mediaset. Berlusconi and three others were convicted, including a Hollywood producer, Frank Agrama, who received a three-year sentence.

Four defendants were cleared because statute of limitations had run out.

Berlusconi is not the first former Italian premier to be convicted of criminal charges.

Former Socialist Premier Bettino Craxi eluded an arrest warrant and turned up at his villa in Tunisia in 1994 after a court in Italy charged him in a massive corruption case. He was tried in absentia, convicted and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison, never returned to Italy and died in exile. Craxi was considered Berlusconi’s mentor thanks to his opening to private television in Italy from a state monopoly.

Former seven-time Christian Democrat premier , Giulio Andreotti, was convicted of involvement in a Mafia-murder. But he was cleared on appeal and never went to jail.

In the same courthouse on Friday, another criminal trial against Berlusconi was held. He is charged in that case with paying for sex with an under-age woman and trying to cover it up. He denies wrongdoing.

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