MILAN: An Italian appeals court unexpectedly overturned Silvio Berlusconi’s conviction on charges of abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor, in a significant legal victory for the former prime minister.
The Milan court yesterday threw out a guilty verdict handed down last year by a lower tribunal, which had sentenced Berlusconi to seven years in jail and banned him from holding public office.
Berlusconi was accused of paying for sex with former teenage nightclub dancer Kharima El Mahroug, better known under her stage name “Ruby the Heartstealer”, during “bunga bunga” erotic parties at his palatial home near Milan.
He was also charged with abusing his authority to get El Mahroug released from police custody over unrelated theft accusations.
In a brief statement read out in court, the judges fully acquitted Berlusconi on both charges. Their ruling could be overturned if prosecutors lodge a final appeal with Italy’s top court.
Even so, the verdict came as a huge relief to the embattled 77 year-old, who has suffered a series of reverses, including being forced to serve a one-year community service sentence in an old people’s home after a conviction for tax fraud last year.