• Friday, July 25, 2014

Ex-Italian PM to begin community service for tax fraud

BBC Online
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks on as he arrives at the Sacred Family Foundation, where he will serve part of his one-year tax fraud sentence by doing community service with the elderly, in Cesano Boscone, a small town on the outskirts of Milan May 9, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks on as he arrives at the Sacred Family Foundation, where he will serve part of his one-year tax fraud sentence by doing community service with the elderly, in Cesano Boscone, a small town on the outskirts of Milan May 9, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to start a year of community service at a care home near Milan.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud last year, commuted to four hours work a week with elderly dementia patients.

The Catholic care home says Berlusconi, 77, will be treated like any other assistant.

The billionaire has been embroiled in a string of court cases.

His conviction last year was in connection with the purchase of TV rights by his firm, Mediaset, in the 1990s.

But he was spared prison because the Italian legal system is lenient to the over-70s.

Berlusconi chose community service rather than house arrest to serve out his commuted sentence.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says this will enable him to continue to lead his centre-right party, Forza Italia, in the European elections, although he has been forced to resign his seat in the upper house of parliament.

Berlusconi has also had to surrender his passport and his travel within Italy is severely restricted.

He also has to observe a nightly curfew at his palatial home near Milan.

Berlusconi is said to have been studying Alzheimer's disease in preparation for his community service.

He was due to arrive at the San Pietro care home in Cesano Boscone at 09:45 local time (07:45 GMT).

Massimo Restelli, head of care services there, told La Repubblica newspaper that Berlusconi's introduction would be "gradual" so that he and the elderly patients could get used to each other.

"It will be small steps so as not to make any mistakes, and then he could do all sorts of things. He could help with meals, which are tricky because sometimes you have to 'remind' the patient that they are eating," he said.

He said Berlusconi would be accompanied at all times by a medical worker specialised in Alzheimer's.

"We'll see if Berlusconi's presence creates some kind of close bond, if he is a reference for anyone," he added.

Berlusconi has always denied the charges against him, accusing left-wing judges of a witch-hunt.

Last year he was convicted of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his powers, which brought him a lifetime ban from public office. He was also expelled from the Italian Senate.

He is appealing against the underage sex conviction, in a trial known as the "Ruby" case.

He is also on trial for allegedly bribing a centre-left senator to switch sides.

Published: 3:42 pm Friday, May 09, 2014

Last modified: 10:16 pm Friday, May 09, 2014

TAGS: Italian Prime Minister Italy community service Berlusconi Milan

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