Italy's top criminal court Thursday night upheld a 2005 corruption conviction against a former minister and close associate of outgoing Premier Silvio Berlusconi, but lowered his sentence from seven to six years, one of his lawyers said.

Cesare Previti — a longtime aide of the premier who served as defense minister in Berlusconi's first government in 1994 — had been free pending appeal. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

"An innocent man has been convicted," Alessandro Sammarco, a lawyer for Previti, told reporters. He contended that the court of Cassation in its ruling had failed to identify whom Previti allegedly bribed and where and when.

The ruling Thursday night an appeals court conviction a year ago for which Previti had been sentenced to seven years for receiving bribes from the former owners of a chemical company.

In a separate case, an appeals court in 2003 convicted Previti of charges linked to the 1991 payment of $433,000 to a Rome judge and sentenced him to five years in prison. Previti is appealing that conviction.