An Italian court yesterday ordered former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to do a year of community service in a senior citizens' home run by the Catholic Church in a symbolic but humiliating punishment for tax fraud.
The flamboyant billionaire, 77, will have to work at the centre "one day a week and for not less than four hours", Milan judge Pasquale Nobile De Santis said.
The ANSA news agency identified the centre as the Fondazione Sacra Famiglia, a Church-run facility for disabled and elderly people with 2,000 patients in Cesano Boscone, on Milan's southwestern outskirts.
The three-time prime minister will work at a daycare centre at the facility that caters for Alzheimer's patients, the newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.
The court in Milan said Berlusconi would be required to stay in the Lombardy region for most of the week, but he would be granted special dispensation to travel to Rome between Tuesdays and Thursdays for political engagements.
The former prime minister will also have to respect a curfew by staying at home in either Rome or Milan from 11.00pm until 6.00am for the duration of his community service.
The ruling said the community service meant Berlusconi was "still a socially dangerous person" but his readiness to pay compensation and fees in the case "appear to be indications of a willingness to reform".
It also warned "offensive" comments made by Berlusconi about the judiciary could, if repeated, be reason to revoke community service and impose house arrest.
Berlusconi has been expelled from parliament and is barred from running in an election for six years. But he remains the leader of Italy's main centre-right party, Forza Italia (Go Italy), and is still a major political player.
The ruling is certain to ease the veteran politician's concern about campaigning for European Parliament elections next month even though recent polls show him lagging behind the ruling centre-left Democratic Party.
Berlusconi's lawyers Niccolo Ghedini and Franco Coppi welcomed the ruling as "balanced and satisfactory relating to the requirements of his political activity". Berlusconi was sentenced last year in the case, which relates to the purchase of television distribution rights by his Mediaset business empire in the 1990s.