Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy, has died at the age of 86

Nabil Anas

Global Courant

Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul who for decades defied a succession of scandals to tower over Italian politics, has died, according to Italian media. He turned 86.

Berlusconi’s television network Mediaset announced his death on Monday alongside a smiling photo of the man on its homepage. A cause of death was not immediately clear.

Berlusconi, Italy’s longest-serving prime minister, formed the country’s largest media company before using his fame and fortune as the starting point for a political career that saw him lead Italy three times.

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He had been diagnosed with leukemia in April after years of ill health and was admitted to hospital for what doctors described as a scheduled check-up on Friday for a lung infection.

Berlusconi underwent heart surgery in 2016 and previously suffered from prostate cancer. He has been hospitalized repeatedly in recent years after contracting Covid-19 in 2020.

Political allies paid tribute on Monday to a man who was fiercely divided, yet had been part of Italian public life for more than 40 years.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini called him a “great Italian” and said he had lost a “good friend”. Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said his death marked the “end of an era”.

Broadcasting and bunga bunga

Berlusconi made his fortune through his television channels and owned the AC Milan football team for a long time before entering politics.

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He served as Prime Minister in three separate periods, from 1994 to 1995, from 2001 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2011

Silvio Berlusconi in Milan in 1977. He made his fortune in construction and TV broadcasting before starting his TV career.Edoardo Fornaciari/Getty Images file

But he was just as well known for his controversial private life, where sex parties and corruption allegations haunted him for years.

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Berlusconi achieved worldwide fame as the host of so-called bunga bunga parties, private dinners that allegedly led to shows performed by young and attractive guests.

An Italian court acquitted Berlusconi in February over charges of paying witnesses to lie in an underage prostitution case that has haunted the former prime minister for more than a decade.

Berlusconi was accused of bribing 24 people, mostly young, female guests at the parties, in an earlier trial in which he was accused of paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer.

Berlusconi remained an active politician until his death.

Berlusconi with Lega leader Matteo Salvini, left, and Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni in Rome in September 2022.Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images file

He sat in the Senate, the upper house of Italy’s parliament, and in recent months has again sparked controversy by criticizing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, putting him at odds with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition government.

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party is part of the government, but he himself had no role. He was also a member of the European Parliament.

This is a breaking story, check back here for updates.

Associated Press contributed.

Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy, has died at the age of 86

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