MILAN, Italy, May 9 (Xinhua) - Italian three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday started social work helping the elderly and the disabled at a non-profit facility near Milan to serve a tax-fraud verdict.
A court in Milan ruled last month that the media entrepreneur could do one year of community service rather than house arrest to serve a conviction for inflating prices in the purchase of movie rights for his broadcaster. Berlusconi, 77, is too old to go to jail under Italian legal practice.
"I talked with Berlusconi in the late morning, he looked calm and even happy to have done good," Berlusconi's political advisor Giovanni Toti was quoted as saying by Rai state radio.
Dozens of journalists and photographers from different countries as well as many passer-byes gathered outside the facility in the small town of Cesano Boscone. Berlusconi, however, did not make any statements, explaining that he had been asked by authorities to behave so.
The facility head Paolo Pigni said last week that Berlusconi, who has started intense campaigning ahead of the upcoming European elections with his center-right Forza Italia (FI) opposition party, would not be allowed to exploit his community-service plan for political purposes.
"We will be inflexible about this, no kind of political activities will be permitted and neither will statements, rallies, stalls or demonstrations," Pigni said. The facility head added that Berlusconi would be constantly accompanied by a tutor while his escort and staff would have to stop outside.
The tax-fraud verdict, which was Berlusconi's first final guilty conviction in some 20 years of fighting legal cases, has led to him being ejected from parliament and banned from holding public offices for two years. However, he is still leading FI from outside parliament.
According to the court's ruling, Berlusconi is not allowed to leave Lombardy region, of which the capital is Milan, unless he gets an authorization, but he is free to go to Rome from Tuesday to Thursday which allows him to continue his political activity.
Judicial authorities, however, have warned Berlusconi they could revoke community service and put him under house arrest if he keeps "defaming" them.
Berlusconi has defined the punishment as "ridiculous" for a political figure of his standing and has claimed that the conviction was part of a campaign against him conducted by "leftist" magistrates.