The two-year Bunga Bunga Trial has finally come to a close, and a court in Milan has found Silvio Berlusconi guilty of paying for sex with a minor. The court sentenced the former Italian prime minister to seven years in prison and banned him from public office for life.
But before we wave goodbye to Silvio (like we have, prematurely, so often before), it’s important to keep in mind that the remarkably resilient premier has a penchant for appeals — and a knack for winning them. Yes, Berlusconi has, according to his own estimate, been the subject of some 2,500 court hearings. But, incredibly enough, the former prime minister has yet to serve a sentence:
- 1990: Berlusconi is found guilty of perjury for providing false testimony regarding his membership in Propaganda Due, a subversive and illegal Masonic lodge. Amnesty granted in 1989 saves him from actual sentencing.
- 1994: Berlusconi faces corruption charges over subsidiaries of his company Fininvest paying bribes totaling $240,000 to tax inspectors. In 1998, he is sentenced to 33 months in prison, which he never serves because the statute of limitations expires during an appeal.
- 1995: Berlusconi is found guilty of falsifying documents during Fininvest’s acquisition of the Medusa film company. In 2001 he is acquitted, and thus never serves a mandated 16-month prison sentence.
- 1998: In his second conviction in a week, Berlusconi is sentenced to 28 months in jail for using an offshore company to bribe former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. An appeals court throws out the charges a year later because the statute of limitations has expired.
- 2002: The Italian Parliament passes a bill allowing defendants to appeal for a change of venue if there is "legitimate suspicion" that the judge involved in a case is biased. Berlusconi uses the legislation to his advantage by dragging charges out past the statute of limitations (he will go on to evade false accounting charges through other laws passed by his government).
- 2013: An appeals court upholds charges of tax fraud against Berlusconi after he is initially sentenced to four years in prison and banned from public office for five years in 2012. Berlusconi is now appealing the verdict to Italy’s highest court, which has yet to issue a final verdict.
As for the latest conviction, Berlusconi posted on his Facebook page that he had fully expected to be acquitted because there is no evidence to condemn him.
Let the appeals begin.
Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is assistant managing editor for online at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor's degree from U.C. Berkeley, and master's degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon.| Passport |