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Silvio Berlusconi, giant of Italian politics, dies at 86

Berlusconi was suffering from chronic leukaemia.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former three-time prime minister of Italy, died on Monday 12 June aged 86.

Earlier this year the veteran politician and billionaire media tycoon spent six weeks in Milan's San Raffaele hospital suffering from a lung infection linked to leukaemia.

He suffered from a series of health problems in recent years, including being hospitalised with covid in 2020, undergoing major heart surgery in 2016 and overcoming prostate cancer in 1997.

Berlusconi was the leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party which is part of Italy's right-wing coalition government along with the Fratelli d'Italia party of prime minister Giorgia Meloni and the Lega of Matteo Salvini.

Berlusconi headed four governments from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011 when he resigned reluctantly after parliament passed austerity measures sought by the EU.

He was prime minister for a total of nine years, making him the third longest-serving premier in post-war Italy.

Following years of scandals and trials for corruption, fraud and underage sex charges, Berlusconi made a political comeback last October, returning as a senator nine years after being expelled from elected office following a tax fraud conviction.

In February he was acquitted in a high-profile case in which he was accused of bribing witnesses to lie about his infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties, and he recently stirred controversy with his criticism of Ukraine president Volodymir Zelensky.

Born in Milan in 1936, Berlusconi graduated in law and built up a vast empire of media and real estate through his companies Mediaset and Fininvest before entering politics in 1994.

Known as Il Cavaliere (The Knight), Berlusconi owned AC Milan football club from 1986 to 2017, and he became the owner of third division club Monza in 2018.

Twice-divorced, Berlusconi had five adult children. He had been in a relationship with Marta Fascina, 54 years his junior, since 2020.

Photo credit: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock.com

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