The hearing of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's final appeal against a prison sentence for tax fraud will be held at the Court of Cassation on 30 July, a legal source close to the case said this afternoon.

The hearing date is earlier than expected.

A Milan court sentenced Mr Berlusconi last year to four years in prison with a five-year ban on holding public office after it found him complicit in tax fraud at his Mediaset television empire.

The verdict was confirmed in a first appeal this year.

The result of the final appeal at the Court of Cassation could have a major impact on the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

His fragile coalition government depends on Mr Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party.