Court bans Italy's Berlusconi from office for 2 years

A court in Milan ruled on Saturday that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi should be banned from holding public office for two years following a conviction for tax fraud.

Earlier this month a cross-party Italian parliamentary committee voted in favour of the expulsion of Berlusconi, a 77-year-old billionaire, who has dominated Italian politics for the past two decade (See: Italian senate committee recommends expulsion of former PM Silivio Berlusconi)  It would need to be ratified later this month by a vote of the full senate.

Berlusconi's lawyers said they will appeal the decision in the Supreme Court. They had asked for a one-year ban, the minimum punishment in this case.

The two-year ban will not have an immediate effect. As a senator, Berlusconi's expulsion depends on a separate vote in the upper house of parliament.

Expulsion is a punishment reserved for any parliamentarian who is sentenced to more than two years. The Senate vote should take place by the end of the year.

Italy's Supreme Court on 1 August upheld a tax fraud conviction, rejecting Berlusconi's final appeal against an earlier four-year jail sentence.

If the Supreme Court upholds the re-calculation of the ban, as it is widely expected to do, Berlusconi will not be able to vote or run for public office for two years.

In June this year Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from public office by a lower court in Milan for having sex with an underage prostitute, and abuse of power in covering it up (See: Italy's ex-PM Berlusconi gets 7-yr sentence in sex scandal). He remains free till a higher court rules on his appeal against the lower court's ruling.