Berlusconi Faces Down Protesters at Rally Against Prosecutors

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced down protestors as he led a rally against the country’s prosecutors and judges whom he says are out to destroy him politically.

“If you think you can scare me, you are very mistaken,” Berlusconi told a crowd of thousands in Brescia, Italy, as young protestors in the front rows whistled and shouted insults. “If you think you can intimidate me, you are very mistaken.”

Berlusconi also said that a part of the judiciary was trying to “eliminate” him because he was the “only thing preventing the Left from coming to power.”

The three-time former prime minister’s legal headaches are mounting with his trial on charges of engaging in sex with a minor and abuse of power resuming on May 13, with a verdict possible within weeks. Prosecutors in Naples called for another indictment against him for corrupting a lawmaker, news agency Ansa reported on May 9.

Berlusconi entered into a coalition government with political adversary Enrico Letta, who was sworn in as prime minister last month thanks to Berlusconi’s backing. Letta’s Democratic Party has defended the independence of the judiciary and today’s protest threatens to strain ties between the two camps.

“These verdicts come at a crucial time in which we are trying to drag Italy out of its difficulties with a collaboration with the Democratic Party that is not easy,” Berlusconi said in an interview with TGCOM24 on May 9.

Avoiding Jail

The Milan court this week upheld the tax-fraud conviction that stemmed from the accounting of television rights at Milan-based Mediaset SpA, the media company Berlusconi founded.

In Italy, convictions are not definitive until all appeals are exhausted, and Berlusconi has the right to one more petition in the Mediaset case to the country’s high court.

Even if the verdict is upheld again before the statute of limitations expires next year, Berlusconi, 76, is unlikely to serve any prison time because sentencing guidelines for those over 70 are lenient. His four-year jail term may be eligible for reduction to one year due to a law passed by former premier Romano Prodi’s government in 2006 aimed at stemming overcrowding in jails.

The billionaire and media tycoon has always denied any wrongdoing, saying activist prosecutors have been trying to destroy him since he entered politics in 1994. Almost all of the corruption charges, with the exception of the prostitution case and the possible Naples indictment, are based on alleged wrongdoing committed before he became a politician almost two decades ago.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.