World News

Convicted Berlusconi relinquishes 'Knight of Labour' title

Leader of Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi talks to reporters at the end of the consultations with Italian Prime Minister-designate Matteo Renzi (not seen) at the Parliament in Rome in this February 19, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s four-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday relinquished the honorary “Knight of Labour” title that gave him his nickname of “il Cavaliere” in 1977 as he prepares to serve a one-year sentence for tax fraud.

The 77-year-old media magnate “auto-suspended” himself from the Federation of Knights of Labour in a letter before a planned meeting of the directorate, the federation said. It did not provide further details of the letter or what the directorate planned to discuss.

Since entering politics in 1994, Berlusconi was frequently referred to as simply “il Cavaliere” both in the media and by fellow politicians.

On Tuesday, Italy’s highest appeals court confirmed a two-year ban from public office for the centre-right leader over a conviction for tax fraud in August in which he was handed a four-year prison sentence, commuted to one year.

In April, Berlusconi is expected to be told whether he will serve his sentence doing community service or under house arrest.

Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party is the largest parliamentary opposition to Matteo Renzi’s coalition government, has continued to lead his party from outside parliament since he was stripped of his Senate seat in November.

He says he will appeal to Italy’s constitutional court against the tax fraud verdict and has already appealed to the European Court of Human Rights against his expulsion from the Senate.

In addition to the tax fraud case, Berlusconi is appealing a seven-year jail sentence issued by a Milan court last year for paying for sex with an underaged prostitute and abusing his office to cover it up.

Berlusconi denies all wrongdoing and has said he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors and judges.

Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; writing by Steve Scherer