Silvio Berlusconi has broadcast an angry video message after his jail sentence for tax fraud was upheld by Rome’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court.
Italy’s former PM Silvio Berlusconi said he was the innocent victim of “an incredible series of accusations and trials that had nothing to do with reality”.
The court also ordered a further judicial review on whether Silvio Berlusconi should be banned from holding public office.
Silvio Berlusconi, 76, is unlikely to go to jail because of his age.
While he is expected to serve out his sentence as house arrest, Silvio Berlusconi has the option of asking to do community service instead, with the deadline for the application not expected to fall until mid-October.
The ruling by Rome’s Court of Cassation, against which he cannot appeal, came after a three-day hearing. Silvio Berlusconi was not in court.
In an emotional nine-minute video, Silvio Berlusconi denounced the decision as “based on nothing, and which deprives me of my freedom and political rights”.
“No-one can understand the onslaught of real violence that has been directed against me following an incredible series of accusations and trials that don’t have any foundation in reality,” he said.
He described the more that 50 court cases he has faced as “genuine judicial harassment that is unmatched in the civilized world”.
“In exchange for the commitments I have made over almost 20 years in favor of my country and coming almost at the end of my public life, I have been rewarded with accusations and a verdict that is founded on absolutely nothing, that takes away my personal freedom and my political rights.”
Silvio Berlusconi criticized the country’s judicial record, saying: “Is this the Italy that we want? Is this the Italy that we love? Absolutely not.”
It is the billionaire businessman’s first definitive conviction after decades of criminal prosecutions.
The case concerns deals that his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films.
Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison at the conclusion of the trial in October last year, though this was automatically reduced to a year under a 2006 pardon law.
The court at the time heard that he and other executives had bought TV rights at inflated prices to avoid paying taxes.
He was labeled the “author of a whole system of tax fraud”.
The review of the lower court’s five-year ban on holding public office means Silvio Berlusconi can remain as a senator and as leader of his centre-right People of Freedom Party (PDL) for now.
Silvio Berlusconi’s political grouping forms part of Italy’s coalition government. Prime Minister Enrico Letta needs both the PDL and his own centre-left Democratic Party to govern.
In a statement after the court ruling, Enrico Letta urged “a climate of serenity” for the good of the country.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano also urged the country to stay calm.
Silvio Berlusconi’s legal team said there were “solid reasons” why Berlusconi should have been acquitted, and it would “evaluate and pursue any useful initiative, also in Europe, to make sure that this unjust sentence is radically reformed”.
Anti-establishment politician Beppe Grillo welcomed the court ruling, comparing the sentence to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In a statement on his blog, Beppe Grillo said Berlusconi had “polluted, corrupted and paralyzed Italian politics for 21 years”.