Berlusconi—Italy’s Artful Dodger—Escapes Jail; Allowed to Keep Old People Company

by John Fund

Is it any wonder why voters in Western countries are so cynical about the failure to hold politicians accountable? 

Check out this Reuters dispatch

A court on Tuesday ordered former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to serve a tax fraud sentence by doing community service with the elderly, in a ruling that restricts his movements but not his political activity.

The court ruled that Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, must spend four hours a week in a Catholic old people’s home on the outskirts of Milan for a year. The home’s director said the media tycoon would keep residents company and take them to Mass.

The four-time prime minister, 77, will not be allowed to travel outside Lombardy, the region around Milan where he has his main residence, except for restricted trips to Rome.

However, Berlusconi’s allies said he would still be able to campaign for next month’s European Parliament election and play a political role. The ruling does not mention any restrictions on holding political rallies or giving interviews.

Berlusconi stormed onto Italy’s political stage in the 1990s following a massive corruption scandal that discredited the long-ruling Christian Democratic Party. He promised to cut spending, sweep away regulations, and “modernize” Italy. During two stints as prime minister he failed dismally, while making his country a laughing stock with his “bunga bunga” parties and sleazy assignations with women.

Berlusconi was finally stripped of his seat in the Italian Senate this year after exhausting his appeals on a conviction for tax fraud. He is still appealing a conviction for paying to have sex with an underage prostitute.  

Given this record, it is appalling that Reuters reports his four-year sentence was commuted down to only one year “under a law aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.” Then prosecutors chose not to ask for house arrest and agreed the former prime minister would only do community service.

The Artful Dodger of Italian politics has won again.