Italian court upholds corruption conviction against associate of Berlusconi

Italy's top criminal court Thursday night upheld a 2005 corruption conviction against Cesare Previti, a former minister and a close associate of outgoing Premier Silvio Berlusconi, but lowered Previti's sentence from seven to six years, Italian news reports said.

Previti a longtime aide of the premier who served as defense minister in Berlusconi's first government in 1994 was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read after 12 hours of deliberation by the judges. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

The Court of Cassation's ruling exhausted the appeals path for the 71-year-old Previti, making it appear likely that he would soon be jailed.

A year ago, an appeals court in Milan upheld Previti's conviction for receiving bribes a decade earlier from the former owners of the SIR chemical company to bribe three judges so they would settle a case in SIR's favor. That ruling shaved four years off a lower court's conviction of Previti in 2003 in the case.

In a separate case, an appeals court in 2003 convicted Previti of charges linked to the 1991 payment of US$433,000 (Ђ368,667) to a Rome judge and sentenced him to five years in prison. Previti is appealing that conviction.

His lawyer at the courthouse had his cell phone was turned off and could not immediately be reached for comment, reports AP.

O.Ch.