ROME (AFP) ― Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is in hot water with the justice system again after mocking the community service he has been ordered to do for tax fraud, media reports said Tuesday.
The 77-year-old former premier ― convicted for fraud last year ― was allowed to opt for community service instead of prison because of leniency in Italy for convicted over-70s.
But the media magnate ― who is leading his center-right Forza Italia party’s campaign for the European elections ― has used his platform to repeatedly criticize the justice system and his upcoming community service in an old people’s home.
“It is ridiculous to think of re-educating me by handing me over to social services and through interviews every 15 days with social workers,” he said late Monday in a television interview.
“Entrusting to social services a man who was the longest-serving head of the government” in Italy and “the only person in the world to have presided over the G8 three times, is ridiculous, not just for me but for the country,” he said.
According to the reports, the Milan court in charge of handling Berlusconi’s case is considering issuing him with a warning ― and should the aging billionaire continue to speak out against the judiciary, he could find himself hit with house arrest instead of community service.
Berlusconi has been ordered to work at the Fondazione Sacra Famiglia ― a Church-run center for disabled and elderly people with 2,000 patients in Milan’s southwestern outskirts ― one day a week for at least four hours.
The center is expected to announce Wednesday when the community service will begin.
Berlusconi has invaded television screens and radios over the past few days in a frenzied bid to draw media attention to his campaign.
He was forced to back-pedal on Monday to quell international outrage sparked by controversial remarks about the Holocaust.
The gaffe-prone leader said he was a friend to both Jewish people and Germany, after saying Saturday that Germans denied the existence of Nazi concentration camps.
He went on in a separate interview to compare the head of the anti-establishment Five Star movement ― currently ahead of his Forza Italia party in the polls ― to Hitler.