ROME // Italy's supreme court yesterday upheld a jail sentence against Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud in a devastating blow to the former prime minister that could throw the country's fragile coalition government into crisis.
After a three-day hearing, the five judges of the supreme court rejected Berlusconi's final appeal against the verdict handed down by two lower courts in Milan that sentenced the former prime minister media mogul to four years in jail - commuted to one year under an amnesty.
But the top judges ordered a judicial review by a Milan court of the second part of his sentence, a five-year ban from public office.
This will enable him to remain as a senator and as leader of his centre-right People of Freedom Party for the moment. He was convicted over the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television empire.
It was the 76-year-old's first definitive conviction in up to 30 court cases on charges ranging from fraud and corruption to having sex with an under aged prostitute.
He accuses leftist magistrates of relentlessly trying to remove him from politics since he stormed onto the scene in 1994.
The verdict could not only end Berlusconi's 20-year domination of Italian politics but destabilise the three-month-old government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta and send tremors across the euro zone.