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REFILE 1ST LEAD Berlusconi conviction for corruption falls victim to time statutes By Alvise Armellini, dpa

Europe
20.04.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpa) - A looming three-year jail sentence for former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi fell victim to the country‘s statutes of limitations on Thursday, as a long-lasting appeals process forced the sentence to be quashed.

In Italy, rulings do not become final until all appeals are exhausted. In all but the most serious crimes, the entire case is dismissed if proceedings are not completed by a certain deadline, which can vary from case to case.

A Naples appeals court ruled that time statutes had expired in the case concerning Berlusconi bribing a rival senator, the ANSA news agency reported. The crime, for which Berlusconi was originally found guilty in 2015, took place 11 years ago.

It came to light in 2013, after Senator Sergio De Gregorio owned up to a 3-million-euro (3.2-million-dollar) under-the-counter payment. The revelation prompted an investigation and a first instance conviction against Berlusconi.

Judges believed the bribe to be part of a plan to destroy the wafer-thin majority supporting Romano Prodi‘s 2006-08 government, which was followed by a Berlusconi administration. De Gregorio left Prodi‘s coalition after taking the bribe.

Valter Lavitola, a journalist said to have acted as a go-between in the bribery, also had his sentence to three years‘ imprisonment quashed for time reasons.

De Gregorio, who sat in parliament until 2013 after crossing over to Berlusconi‘s side, negotiated a 20-month suspended jail term, under a previous plea bargain agreement.

Berlusconi, 80, has had a scandal-prone career. He is currently barred from office as a result of a final tax fraud conviction, for which he served performing community service in a centre for the elderly.

The three-time premier remains a key figure in Italian politics as the leader of the Forza Italia party, which may return to power if elections due by early 2018 result in a grand coalition government.

 

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