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Berlusconi facing a year in prison

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to one year in prison for tax fraud at a court in Italy.

• Blog: Down but not out

Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, confirmed on Thursday that he would not run in next year's elections as the leader of his People of Freedom (PDL) centre-right party and was handed his sentence on Friday.

The 76-year-old faced charges of tax evasion after the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company, with prosecutors initially asking for a jail sentence of three years and eight months. He was then sentenced to four years, which was later reduced by 75% as a result of a 2006 amnesty law, aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.

News agency Reuters reported that he was found guilty of using offshore companies to avoid paying taxes on films before inflating their price as they were sold internally. The difference - amounting to more than €250 million - was then pocketed by the defendants, who numbered ten including Berlusconi.

The Milan chief can, however, appeal the ruling twice before facing definite jail time and has indicated that he will do so. The statute of limitations on the case expires next year and the Italian legal system requires the verdict to pass two levels of appeal before it is deemed final.

The trial first began in July 2006, but was put on hold for a period due to a now-defunct immunity law.

Berlusconi is also on trial in Milan on charges of paying for sex with an underage teenager.