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Nation/World

August 3, 2013

Italy’s celebrity convict probably won’t be jailed

ROME — Now that Silvio Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence have been upheld by Italy’s highest court, key questions remain about what will happen next to the former Italian premier. Here are some answers.

Q: When will the cell bars slam behind him?

A: Berlusconi is highly unlikely to do a day behind bars, and that’s not because he is one of the country’s richest men. That’s because of Italian law. For example, his four-year prison sentence is automatically reduced to one year because of a law mandating that three years be shaved off sentences to reduce prison overcrowding. Berlusconi has long worked hard to appear younger, including eyelid tightening and hair transplants. But he will turn 77 in September, and most Italian convicts 70 or older are eligible to serve their sentences at home.

First-time offenders with relatively short sentences are eligible to avoid prison by doing social services such as picking up litter in a park or serving meals at homes for the elderly. Berlusconi will be given this option.

The billionaire media mogul has several homes in Italy: a sprawling seaside estate on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, a villa near Milan where he used to hold his infamous “bunga bunga suppers” with young women, and a rented palazzo in Rome a short stroll from the office where he served as premier.

Berlusconi will decide whether to do social services or stay at home. If he makes the latter choice, judicial officials would help decide which dwelling to confine him in.

Q: When does he start serving his sentence?

A: It will take weeks for Berlusconi to be formally notified of his options since judicial offices are on vacation now. And when he is, he’ll have a month to make up his mind. That means he is unlikely to start serving his sentence until mid-October at the earliest. If he opts to do social services, it could take months to find an approved organization that would accept him.

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