Former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi dies aged 86
Silvio Berlusconi death has been confirmed this morning (Monday, June 12) with Italian media stating he died at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.
He was being treated for a lung infection connected to a case of chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia, sources have confirmed, after suffering from poor health for some time.
The media tycoon — whose populist Forza Italia party is a junior partner in the current ruling coalition in Italy — leaves behind a legacy layered with ambition, allegations of corruption, a fraud conviction and an astounding ability to bounce back from scandal.
He was the first prime minister to be elected without previously having held a government office, and his second term — between 2001 and 2006 — is the longest served by any Italian leader since World War Two.
Nicknamed Il Cavaliere (the knight), Berlusconi was often considered the “kingmaker” in Italian politics — but it was his private life which so often captured headlines.
One particularly troublesome period came for the former prime minister in 2011, when it emerged that authorities were investigating allegations of a prostitution ring surrounding him.
The infamous “bunga bunga” party scandal saw allegations levelled against Berlusconi and his associates, with claims including paying tens of thousands of euros to young women to take part in orgies at his luxury Milan villa and perform an African-style dance ritual known as bunga bunga in the nude.
During the investigation, reports emerged of a conversation, recorded via wire-tapping, during which Berlusconi boasted of how many women he’d slept with.
Reported by the Guardian in 2011, the wire-taps are said to contain evidence that the former prime minister was indeed paying the women for sex.
The conversation, between Berlusconi and co-accused entrepreneur Gianpaolo Tarantini in 2009, heard Berlusconi telling Tarantini all the girls who passed through his residence were “well-provided for”.
Berlusconi went on to boast about how many women he’d been with the previous night: “Last night I had a queue outside the door of the bedroom…there were 11…I only did eight because I could not do it anymore.
“You just can’t get round to all of them. But this morning I feel great, I’m pleased with my stamina.”
In another conversation, an associate is heard complaining he will need a caravan to pick up all the girls, while in another conversation Tarantini says to a colleague: “Find a whore, please.”
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Berlusconi, however, denied all the allegations of impropriety, even as the case went to trial.
He claimed he was too old — 75 at the time — to be able to sleep with as many women as some reports claimed.
Speaking to the centre-left newspaper, La Repubblica, in 2011, he said: “I am 75 years old. And even if I am a rascal, 33 girls in two months seems to me to be too many, even for a 30-year-old. It’s too many for anyone.”
He insisted the parties were nothing more than “carefree elegant dinners”.
In 2013 Berlusconi was found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and for abusing the powers of his office.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison, one more year than had been requested by the prosecution, and banned from public office for life. Berlusconi appealed the sentence and his conviction was quashed a year later.
Also in 2013, he was convicted of tax fraud, leading to a four-year prison term — of which three were pardoned, a year’s community service and a six-year bar from legislative office.
But in a manner it appeared only Berlusconi could manage, he immediately bounced back, elected as an MEP in 2019.
And in 2022, he was back in parliament, elected to Italy’s senate, the kingmaker back exactly where he wanted to be, right before his health deteriorated.
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