Italian court convicts Berlusconi of tax evasion

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MILAN — A court in Milan today convicted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi of tax fraud and sentenced the media mogul to four years in prison, his first prison sentence in years of criminal probes.

The 76-year-old billionaire businessman is expected to remain free until the appeals process is exhausted. In Italy, cases must pass two levels of appeal before the verdicts are final.

Other criminal investigation probes against him on charges including corruption had ended in acquittal or were thrown out for statute of limitations.

Earlier in the week, Berlusconi had announced he wouldn’t run for a fourth term. For nearly 20 years, Berlusconi has dominated the Italian political scene, but his star began to lose its glitter after a recent sex scandal that has pushed him into another trial in the same courthouse, and amid the European debt crisis that effectively forced him out of office last November.

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