Berlusconi Convicted But Probably Won't Be Jailed

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Berlusconi has been dogged by a variety of criminal court cases since he entered politics in 1994. In endless legal investigations and marathon trials he has been accused of a range of alleged crimes: fraud, tax evasion, false testimony, corruption, violation of anti-trust laws, drug-trafficking, mafia-ties and most recently for having allegedly paid for sex with an underage woman.

He has always denied wrongdoing and has often vociferously defended himself saying he is the victim of persecution by what he calls the "left-wing judges" who he believes control the courts ? especially the Milan court, where most of his cases have been heard.

He told a party rally that he had paid "billions" to defend himself in the courts. So far, four convictions have either been overturned on appeal or dropped due to the statute of limitations.

Shares in Berlusconi's media empire, Mediaset, dropped sharply on the Milan's stock market Friday with the news of his conviction.

Earlier today in Milan, there was another hearing in the so-called "Ruby" case in which Berlusconi is being accused of allegedly paying for sex with an underage woman nicknamed "Ruby" and trying to cover it up.

He rarely appears in court but in his last appearance at this trial earlier this month he again denied the accusations saying he "never had intimate relations of any kind" with Ruby or any of his female guests at the "bunga bunga" parties held at his private homes. Instead he said these gatherings were just innocent fun in which he "monopolized attention singing, talking about sports, politics and gossip."

Berlusconi is not the first former Italian prime minister to be convicted of criminal charges in recent history. Former Socialist Party leader Bettino Craxi died in "exile" in Tunisia in 2000 after a court in Italy sentenced him to a jail sentence for corruption.

Giulio Andreotti, a Christian-Democrat leader who lead seven governments over the years, was convicted of involvement in a Mafia-murder, but then cleared in appeal. Neither of these ever spent any time in jail.

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