A Milan court has convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of paying for sex with an under-age prostitute during infamous "bunga bunga" parties at his villa and then using his influence to try to cover it up.
The verdict adds to mounting complications facing Prime Minister Enrico Letta, whose fragile left-right coalition government is supported by Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party.
Berlusconi, 76, was sentenced to seven years in prison and barred from public office for life. The ban on holding office could mean the end of Berlusconi's two-decade political career. However, there are two more levels of appeal before the sentence would become final.
Berlusconi holds no official post in the current Italian government, but remains influential in the uneasy cross-party coalition that emerged after inconclusive February elections.
Both he and the Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal, former teenaged nightclub dancer Karima El Mahrougbetter known under her stage name "Ruby the Heartstealer," have denied ever having sex.
The panel of three judges, all women, also found the 76 year-old former premier guilty of abuse of office by arranging to have her released from police custody when she was detained in a separate theft case.
Berlusconi will not have to serve any jail time unless the sentence is confirmed on appeal.