Will Berlusconi care for the elderly?

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iol news pic Poor Silvio Reuters Silvio Berlusconi. File picture: Tony Gentile

Rome - An Italian government agency has asked a court whether former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi can serve a one-year sentence for tax fraud by working in a centre for the elderly, judicial sources said on Tuesday.

The 77-year old centre-right leader has dominated politics in Italy for decades, but was expelled from the Senate last November after being convicted for tax fraud at his Mediaset television network. A four-year sentence was commuted to one.

At a hearing on Thursday, judges are due to begin deliberating whether Berlusconi, who denies the tax fraud charge, should serve his time under house arrest or by doing social work. Prison was always unlikely because of the media mogul's age and the non-violent nature of the crime.

According to the proposal by the government social services agency and deposited with the court, Berlusconi would work just one day a week at the elderly centre, the judicial sources said.

The agency also proposed that Berlusconi be given the possibility of finishing his sentence in nine months, instead of a year, if his behaviour is impeccable, the sources said.

It was unclear whether the agency, which makes suggestions on how to handle court sentences that require a convict to undergo rehabilitation or work in social services, was acting upon the request of Berlusconi's lawyers. - Reuters

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