Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been found guilty of tax evasion and fraud, and may be headed to prison for four years.
The verdict comes two days after Berlusconi, 76, announced he will not run for premier in upcoming elections. The three-time premier stepped down last November after Italy came under mounting market pressure to deal with its high debt load and Berlusconi failed to come up with persuasive financial reforms.
Prosecutors allege the defendants were behind a scheme to purchase the rights to broadcast U.S. movies on Berlusconi’s private television networks through a series of offshore companies and had falsely declared the payments to avoid taxes.
Poor Silvio. If he were an American, as a tax evader he’d be in the running for Treasury Secretary.
There is, though, one clear difference between Berlusconi and Tim Geithner. Berlusconi was an entrepreneur who built an empire with his own hands and brains. Geithner has spent his entire professional life pushing paper and other people’s money around. Hence, he gets a pass.
Berlusconi’s corruption is inexcusable. But long before it came to light, he was hated by the left for his wealth and success, and his stated promise to reform Italy’s lavish social entitlements and cut taxes as a way of creating jobs.
To enrich himself, Berlusconi should have taken a page from Jon Corzine’s book: Just make the money disappear under a president whose Department of Justice refuses to prosecute Wall Street insiders–especially those who bundle election cash for him.
It was Jon Corzine that lost $1.6 billion in private investments at the now bankrupt MF Global and helped author the failed 2009 $1 trillion stimulus known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“I simply do not know where the money is,” Corzine famously told Congress back in December 2011.
“I literally picked up the phone and called Jon Corzine and said Jon, what do you think we should do. The reason we called Jon is that we knew that he knew about the economy, about world markets, how we had to respond, unlike almost anyone we knew. It was because he had been in the pit — because he had been in the furnace. And we trusted his judgment,” Vice President Joe Biden said about Corzine in November 2011.
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