Berlusconi vows to stay in politics after tax fraud verdict

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A typically unabashed Silvio Berlusconi vowed on Saturday to stay in politics to reform the very justice system that sentenced him to jail for tax fraud, as the Italian press declared an emphatic end to the billionaire former premier's long domination of the nation's political scene.

"I feel obliged to stay in the (political) field to reform the planet justice," the media tycoon told TG5, one of the television stations he runs, after branding Friday's verdict an "intolerable" political ruling.

"There are going to be consequences," declared 67-year-old three-time prime minister who first burst on to the Italian political scene almost two decades ago.

A Milan court on Friday sentenced Berlusconi to four years in jail -- quickly reduced to one year under an amnesty law designed to tackle overcrowding in prisons -- and banned him from holding public office for five years.

The three-time premier had announced on on Wednesday that he would not run in the next election due in the spring but did not say he was withdrawing completely from political life.

"I will not be presenting my candidacy but I will remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals," he said.

Italy's press nevertheless on Saturday declared that the Berlusconi era was at a definitive end, with one observer drawing a parallel to the fate of US gangster Al Capone.

Berlusconi's lawyers said they would lodge an appeal by November 10, and Italy's lengthy appeals process will likely enable him to stave off both prison and political banishment.

"And so ends a Titanic affair, born in television and finished in court, with a clear, very tough and above all insulting punishment," wrote?centre-left daily La Repubblica's editor, Ezio Mauro, retracing Berlusconi's political trajectory from "supreme domination" to his "fall from grace and definitive decline".

"An entire generation of Italians born after 1975 will for the first time vote in elections next spring that are not a pro- or anti-Berlusconi referendum," said the influential daily La Stampa. "The mirages and alibis are finished," it declared.

Left-leaning daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which had waged war on Berlusconi's government during his three stints as prime minister between 1994 and 2011, ran a triumphant headline quoting the court's verdict that the media tycoon had a "natural capacity for delinquency".

The conviction "is the proof that Italy was governed for nine years by a tax cheat," said the paper.

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