Berlusconi begins community service

2014-05-09 12:34
(Photo: file, AFP)

(Photo: file, AFP)

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Cesano Boscone - Italy's Silvio Berlusconi began community service for tax fraud on Friday in a spectacular fall from grace for the flamboyant ex-premier, who will likely seek political gain from the symbolic punishment.

The billionaire tycoon, who was convicted last year and has been expelled from parliament, has been ordered to work once a week for up to a year as a volunteer in a hospice for Alzheimer's patients near Milan.

"To prison!" a trade unionist protester in a clown hat shouted, as Berlusconi arrived at the clinic with his security detail in a chauffeur-driven car, wearing a blue suit with an Italian flag badge.

"We Italian workers have one dream in our hearts: Berlusconi in San Vittore!" he shouted, referring to a Milan prison, before being led away by police.

Barred

The Catholic Church-run hospice in Cesano Boscone has said it will not allow Berlusconi to use his stint for political grandstanding in front of the world's media and will treat him like any other volunteer.

The disgraced politico has dominated Italian politics for two decades and is leading a campaign for European Parliament elections, despite being barred from running and his party is expected to get 20% of the vote.

Massimo Restelli, head of the hospice's care services, told the La Repubblica daily that Berlusconi's introduction would be "gradual" so that he and the elderly patients can get used to each other.

"We ask everyone including Berlusconi to observe, to listen and not to get performance anxiety," he said, adding that the media magnate would be accompanied at all times by a medical worker specialised in Alzheimer's.

Troubles

Berlusconi himself has said in interviews that he has a "big surprise" in store and has hinted that this could involve a deeper commitment to Alzheimer's sufferers.

The sentence is seen as part of a slow-moving disintegration of Berlusconi as a political force, with his Forza Italia party divided by bickering and top allies indicted for mafia ties and corruption.


It was Berlusconi's first definitive criminal conviction and could herald more legal troubles ahead as he appeals a sentence for abuse of power and having sex with an underage prostitute.

He is also a defendant in a trial for bribing a former left-wing senator to undermine a rival party in power at the time.


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