Silvio Berlusconi finally convicted of something. Shame about the rest
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Never in the field of human scandal have so many laws been changed to benefit so few. And yet, finally, after all these years, Silvio Berlusconi was finally convicted of something. Alas it was perhaps the least opprobrious of his crimes.
Italy’s biggest joke, and longest serving post war leader was convicted by three female judges both of soliciting prostitution, and of using his influence unduly when his erstwhile underage courtesan was arrested. Il Bunga Bunga – a man who seems to model himself on Benito Mussolini and Jim Davidson in equal measure was finally reined in by the impotent hand of the law when he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The chances of him serving a single day are about as high as him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite Berlusconi insisting throughout that he was the victim of a vile left wing campaign to discredit him, and despite the less than convincing assertions by the woman in question, Karima el-Mahroug that they had never slept together and all the thousands of Euros he gave her were the act of an altruistic friend, the damning verdict took just four minutes to deliver.
Berlusconi said in a statement "An incredible sentence has been issued of a violence never seen or heard of before, to try to eliminate me from the political life of this country. Yet again I intend to resist against this persecution because I am absolutely innocent and I don't want in any way to abandon my battle to make Italy a country that is truly free and just."
But despite the revelations of rampant decadence, prostitution, liberal libertinism, and corruption that have emerged throughout the process, Berlusconi’s other flagrant offences are still to see anything remotely resembling justice. Underage sex, solicitation and ‘fixing’ arrests may be despicable crimes, but his systematic changing of laws to benefit himself are the real scandal of the Berlusconi years. His cynical moves to tighten his grasp on the national media, his alleged collusion with organised crime, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges all go unpunished, thanks to him using his political position to corrupt and obstruct justice.
He may be a joke in European capitals, his brazen criminality may put most mafia bosses to shame, his ludicrous caricature of a personality may be laughable, but Berlusconi delighted in and got away with corruption on the biggest stage of all. And not only did he get away with almost all of it, he kept being re-elected, and even today his political base remains strong. This verdict may indeed prove a final nail in his credibility, but judging by his evergreen ability to slide back into power and the apparently inexhaustible capacity for the Italian electorate to indulge him, who knows if we have indeed just witnessed the final fall of Silvio Berlusconi.