[JURIST] A Milan court declared on Tuesday that former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] has fully served his sentence for tax fraud and will now be permitted to travel out of the country. Berlusconi was found guilty of tax fraud [JURIST report] in 2012 and was originally sentenced to four years in prison on charges that his media empire Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian] purchased television rights for US movies through offshore companies and falsely declared the costs on its taxes. Berlusconi, now 78, was legally considered too old to serve prison time and would have been subjected to serve his sentence under house arrest. However, he was ordered instead to perform a year of community service [JURIST report] at a home for the elderly, and his ability to travel was restricted. Because his sentence has come to an end, Berlusconi’s passport will be returned to him. However, he will still be barred from running for public office under Italian anti-corruption laws.
Berlusconi has been at the center of several political scandals in recent years. He was convicted [AP report] in 2013 of paying for sex with an underage exotic dancer and then abusing his power to cover up the crime. However, last year an appeals court overturned the conviction and seven-year prison sentence, and the acquittal was upheld [JURIST reports] in March, after courts determined that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the former prime minister had known that the exotic dancer was only 17 when the incident occurred. Having been a defendant [JURIST report] in nearly 50 cases, Berlusconi has avoided prison through successful appeals and expired statute of limitations. He has, however suffered much political fallout as a result of his criminal charges.