Berlusconi sentence won't shake Italy government: center-right minister

Reuters News

5/9/2013 3:57:00 AM - Reuters News

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's governing coalition will not fall because of a decision by an appeals court to uphold a four-year jail term against Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud, a minister close to the center-right leader said on Thursday.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi, a member of Berlusconi's party, said the hybrid center-right/center-left coalition would stand or fall on its performance in government rather than Berlusconi's legal battles.

"An unjust sentence will not make the government wobble," Lupi told a morning radio program.

Berlusconi, head of the center-right People of Freedom party (PDL), is not a member of the coalition led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta but he has the power to bring down the coalition.

Berlusconi denies all charges against him and says he is a victim of persecution by leftist magistrates.

The 76-year-old was convicted of inflating the price paid for television rights by his Mediaset network to create illegal slush funds. The court ruling on Wednesday would also bar Berlusconi from holding public office for five years.

Mediaset shares fell 3.2 percent at Thursday's opening.

Neither sentence will take effect unless confirmed by the court of cassation when the three-stroke appeals process allowed under Italian law has been exhausted.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Jon Boyle)