- REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been found guilty of abuse of office and having sex with an underage prostitute.
He was found guilty of paying for sex with a minor and abusing the powers of his office to cover it up. Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in prison and will be banned from ever holding public office.
Berlusconi does have the option to appeal and that process could take several years to complete.
The verdict came after a two-year trial that captured attention around the world with accounts of alleged "bunga bunga" sex parties, that included societal and financial elites at the billionaire's private villa outside Milan while he was premier in 2010.
Berlusconi was accused of paying for sex with former nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug when she was under 18, and of abuse of office to secure her release from police custody on a separate occasion.
He had denied all wrongdoing and said he is being persecuted by left-wing prosecutors.
He said the alleged sex parties were elegant dinners where the female guests performed "burlesque" shows.
Over 200 witnesses were accepted by the Milan court, including George Clooney and his ex-girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis as well as Italian singer Mariano Apicella and former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
"Usually if they're called they have to come. But if they didn't come, we wouldn't send the police after them," said a court official to the Agence France Presse regarding reprots that witnesses refused to testify.
The case is only part of Berlusconi's legal problems, which also include a separate four-year jail sentence for orchestrating a tax fraud scheme in his business dealings. That sentence is also awaiting an appeal.