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Italy

Governed by a tax evader

Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in jail on Friday for tax fraud. The court ruling came two days after Berlusconi confirmed he would not run in next year’s elections as the leader of his People of Freedom (PDL) party, ending almost 19 years as the dominant politician of Italy’s Right.

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO

By Norma Rangeri

Tax evasion was fatal for  the ”untouchable’ too. The judgment can be altered on appeal, rendered ineffective by prescription or annulled by a pending verdict, for this case, by the Constitutional Court. But today the Court of Milan, after ten years of investigation and six trials (too many), said a truth: Silvio Berlusconi is a tax evader.

It is useless to cry conspiracy against the political enemy – the judiciary – because the judgment comes now that Berlusconi has politically already left the scene. And maybe now you understand better the step back from frontline politics, actually the result of extraordinary timing. Four years imprisonment and disqualification from public office are sufficient reasons to leave the stage, to say goodbye to Presidential ambitions and maybe settle for a seat in the Senate. Nor is it worth him issuing denials  (‘no connection’) as it only confirms the evidence of a precipitous escape from the next electoral contest. ‘Berlusconi exceeds himself’ (Il Tempo), ‘Bravo Cavaliere, a great departure from the scene’ (Il Foglio) his supporters in the newspapers have praised him in chorus. Nonsense. He was just good at seizing the moment to avoid sinking below the waves. The judgement weighs like lead on the headquarters of the [Berlusconi’s party] PDL that has already been bombarded by a civil war within the right-wing coalition.

Other shots have been fired to save him, with the pathetic help of his TV stations. While broadcasters the world over were reporting the news of the sentence, the cameras of the Berlusconi family TV network were focusing on trying to protect the image of their boss by providing feverish direct coverage all afternoon of a sentence on another, violent, crime.

In this latest of many court cases, you find the real soul of Berlusconi. It is about TV rights, the heart of the man’s power and project. Many books have been written about the ‘drug’ of overcharging for television programmes that cut out competitors from the market. The ruling speaks of undeclared funds of €270 million: in practice the price of the rights of American films were inflated, burdening budgets in order to pay less tax.

You do not need such court rulings to convince us that Berlusconi was “unfit,” or “inappropriate,” as  the Economist has written. The revelations of  the investigations explain the exceptional strength of the underworld and its pulping of Italian politics. But this judgment should also give cause for some reflection – first by the Democratic Party and the center-left governments – of what the absence of a true law on conflict of interest has done.

Il Manifesto   27.10.2012

Translation by Revolting Europe

Backgrounder (Reuters report on verdict)

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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