The ex-prime minister of Italy has been sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of having sex with an underage prostitute and abusing the power of his office.
In the ruling, handed down by three female judges at a Milan court, 76-year-old multibillionaire media tycoon and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned in November 2011 in the wake of the scandal that led to this trial, was found guilty of having sex with Moroccan prostitute Karima El-Mahroug, who was just 17 years old at the time, at his infamous “bunga-bunga” parties.
He was also convicted of abusing his power in office after attempting to secure the release of El Mahroug when she was arrested for petty theft.
This latest blow to Berlusconi comes after an appeals court upheld his four-year prison sentence for tax fraud within his media holding company, Mediaset.
It’s unlikely Berlusconi will see any jail time for the most recent court conviction until the lengthy appeals process is exhausted. He has escaped jail time before through the appeals process after the statute of limitations in Italian courts expired.
The verdict, however, does have serious implications for the current coalition government, which relies on Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party to stay in power. He may withdraw his support, possibly leading to an early election in which he would seek to rally his followers, many of whom believe he is the victim of politically motivated persecution.