Berlusconi sees social worker before final tax-fraud sentence

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 07, 2014 12:32 PM

By Manuela D'Alessandro

MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi has had a meeting with a social worker to determine whether he can be reinserted into civil society after serving his time for tax fraud, in the latest humiliation for the billionaire former prime minister.

The so-called "social assessment" of the media magnate is standard procedure and was conducted "in recent weeks", sources in the prosecutors' office told Reuters, providing no further details.

The 77-year-old center-right leader, who has dominated Italian politics for two decades, was convicted in August last year of tax fraud at his Mediaset television network and given a four-year sentence, commuted to one.

A panel of two Milan judges and two law professors is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on Thursday to begin discussing whether he should spend his sentence under house arrest or doing public service.

Berlusconi, who spent Thursday and Friday nights in hospital to have tests run on a swollen knee, could claim to have a "legitimate impediment" and ask to have the hearing postponed.

After the hearing, the panel has up to five days to make its ruling, which will also include details of terms of his sentence likely to make it difficult for him to campaign for elections for the European Parliament next month.

Berlusconi's Forza Italia, or Go Italy!, party faces a difficult test in the European and local elections on May 25. Polls put it in third place behind Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Since his conviction Berlusconi has struggled politically. Dozens of lawmakers split with his party last year and now back Renzi's government, while Berlusconi remains in opposition.

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro; writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Andrew Roche)