A Milan court on Friday sentenced Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company.
Berlusconi was also banned for three years from public office. Prosecutors in the Italian northern city had asked for him a jail sentence of three years and eight months.
The 76-year-old former premier had been charged with tax frauds together with other 11 defendants, including Mediaset's president Fedele Confalonieri, who was acquitted, and American producer Frank Agrama, who was sentenced to three years in prison.
The Milan court also ordered damages provisionally set at 10 million euros (12.9 million U.S. dollars) that Berlusconi and his co-defendants will have to pay to Italian tax authorities.
The trial, started nearly six years ago, focused on broadcasting rights that Berlusconi's holding company Fininvest bought via offshore companies from groups in the United States for 470 million euros (607 million U.S. dollars) between 1994 and 1999.
Berlusconi has now the right to appeal the verdict two times, and will not have to serve any time in jail nor renounce public office until the definite sentence.
The verdict came two days after Berlusconi announced in a statement he will not run in elections scheduled for spring 2013 as the leader of his People of Freedom (PdL) center-right party.
"It is another evidence of judicial harassment against Silvio Berlusconi ... We are confident the appeal proceedings will give him reason, and we hope these judgments come quickly," the leader in pectore of PdL, Angelino Alfano, said in commenting on the ruling.
Berlusconi, who has served four terms as the Italian prime minister, has faced at least 17 official criminal and civil allegations since he entered public life in 1994.