An Italian Senate committee recommended that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi be expelled from parliament for violating anti-corruption laws, allowing for a decisive vote in the full chamber in coming weeks.
The 23-member committee for immunities and elections rejected Berlusconi’s defense and, after a six-hour closed-door meeting yesterday, decided to push for his ouster. Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso will schedule a definitive vote in the full chamber after Dario Stefano, chairman of the panel, submits a report.
Berlusconi, 77, faces expulsion because his criminal tax-fraud conviction was rendered definitive in August by Italy’s Supreme Court. Lawmakers in Berlusconi’s People of Liberty failed to halt proceedings against him as Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party, or PD, teamed up with the biggest opposition party to push for the ouster.
“The PD will vote together for the expulsion of Silvio Berlusconi from the Senate,” Felice Casson, a member of the committee, said in a statement on the PD website.
Italian 10-year bond yields fell 7 basis points to 4.3 percent yesterday, bringing the decline for the week to 26 basis points.
The ruling yesterday was Berlusconi’s second setback of the week, coming two days after his attempt to topple Letta was sabotaged by senior People of Liberty lawmakers. The three-time ex-premier was deserted by Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, the party’s general secretary, who led a group of dissidents into ensuring the survival of Letta’s government.
Berlusconi, the world’s 168th wealthiest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, reiterated his innocence.
“This unworthy decision wasn’t the result of a correct application of the law, but of a specific desire to eliminate a political adversary by the justice system,” Berlusconi said in an e-mailed statement.
People of Liberty, or PDL, is outnumbered in the upper house and will need rival senators to break ranks in order to block the vote against Berlusconi in that chamber. The PDL holds 91 of the Senate’s 321 seats, while the PD has 108. Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, the opposition party that has sided with the PD on this issue, has 50 senators and former Prime Minister Mario Monti’s Civic Choice, also pushing for Berlusconi’s expulsion, has 20.
Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison in the tax-fraud case, which stems from evasion in 2002 and 2003 at his Mediaset SpA (MS) television broadcaster. While he is unlikely to serve a day in jail due his age and leniency guidelines, the anti-corruption law passed in December imposes a six-year office ban on people sentenced to prison terms of more than two years.
Berlusconi’s lawyers argued unsuccessfully before the panel that the law shouldn’t be applied to crimes and convictions that originated before its creation. While the tax-fraud case is Berlusconi’s only definitive guilty verdict, he is appealing separate convictions for illegal use of wiretaps, paying a minor for sex and abuse of office. He has denied all charges.
The Senate must conclude the process within the next 20 days and will probably schedule the decisive vote on Oct. 14, Il Sole 24 Ore reported, without citing anyone. Stefano declined to specify the exact timing, while indicating that his report for Grasso would be ready in a matter of hours, not days.
“The rules say we have 20 days,” Stefano said to reporters. “I’ll tell you that, by way of an estimate, I don’t know how many hours it will take me to write the report.”
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