May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi began working with Alzheimer’s patients today as part of his year of court-ordered community service.
The 77-year-old billionaire, who founded Italy’s Forza Italia party, was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud last year. That decision was later commuted to four hours of work a week with elderly patients at Sacra Famiglia, a hospice near Milan in northern Italy.
As Berlusconi entered the facility this morning a bystander heckled him, shouting that the media magnate should be “in San Vittore,” a well-known jail in Milan, SkyTG24 television images showed.
While Berlusconi remains one of Italy’s most influential politicians, serving his sentence will curb his campaign activities in the May 22-25 European Parliamentary elections. The Italian court also imposed travel restrictions that will keep him mainly tied to his home region of Lombardy, where Milan is located.
Sacra Famiglia opened in 1896 as a hospice for people who suffered from incurable diseases. Berlusconi, who is submitting to judicial punishment for the first time after years of trials, requested community service rather than house arrest. He was spared prison due to Italian sentencing guidelines for those over the age of 70.
Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction last year was tied to the purchase of film rights at his Mediaset SpA television broadcaster and led to his expulsion from parliament after a 19-year tenure. He continues to battle other criminal charges ranging from abuse of power to engaging a minor in prostitution. He has denied all wrongdoing and claims he is a victim of political persecution.
Berlusconi’s leadership of the Forza Italia party pushed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to collaborate with him on proposals to change Italy’s electoral and political system.
Sacra Famiglia’s head of care Massimo Restelli told La Repubblica newspaper that Berlusconi’s introduction to patients would be “gradual” and that he would be accompanied at all times by a medical worker specialized in Alzheimer’s care.
“I learned from my mother that helping people who need it is the best way to enrich yourself,” Berlusconi said in a post on his Facebook page.
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