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Appeals court upholds Berlusconi tax evasion sentence

By Hada Messia, CNN
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Wed May 8, 2013
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sentence for tax evasion has been upheld.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sentence for tax evasion has been upheld.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Berlusconi can appeal a second time to a higher court
  • The former prime minister was convicted in October
  • He and others were accused of avoiding taxes on film purchases

Rome (CNN) -- An Italian appeals court in Milan upheld Wednesday a four-year prison sentence for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi, 76, received the sentenced last October when he was convicted for tax evasion. He was also barred from public office for five years.

Under Italian law, he can also appeal Wednesday's ruling to a higher court.

Berlusconi -- who served on and off as prime minister between 1994 and 2011 -- is arguably one of the most colorful and controversial figures in the lively history of Italian politics. For years, he has been entangled in fraud, corruption and sex scandals that have often reached Italian courts.

But the tax evasion case was the first one that resulted in a conviction.

His trial, which also involved executives from Berlusconi's Mediaset television group and the head of a Swiss bank, concerned the purchase of TV rights for films that were then resold within the group at inflated prices.

Prosecutors said the scheme, involving about 3,000 American films, allowed those involved to avoid a major tax bill.

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