|Birth Day:||September 29, 1936|
|Birth Place:||Milan, Italy|
|#4||Barbara Berlusconi||Daughter||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||36||Business|
|#5||Veronica Lario||Former spouse||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#6||Carla Elvira Lucia Dall'Oglio||Former spouse||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#10||Maria Francesca Antonietta Berlusconi||Sister||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#11||Pier Silvio Berlusconi||Son||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
He set up a small cable television company, 'Telemilano' in 1973.
Berlusconi was born in Milan in 1936, where he was raised in a middle-class family. His father, Luigi Berlusconi (1908–1989), was a bank employee, and his mother, Rosa Bossi (1911–2008), a housewife. Silvio was the first of three children; he had a sister, Maria Francesca Antonietta Berlusconi (1943–2009), and has a brother, Paolo Berlusconi (born 1949).
After completing his secondary school education at a Salesian college, he studied law at the Università Statale in Milan, graduating (with honours) in 1961, with a thesis on the legal aspects of advertising. Berlusconi was not required to serve the standard one-year stint in the Italian army which was compulsory at the time. During his university studies, he was an upright bass player in a group formed with the now Mediaset Chairman and amateur pianist Fedele Confalonieri and occasionally performed as a cruise ship crooner. In later life, he wrote A.C. Milan's anthem with the Italian music producer and pop singer Tony Renis and Forza Italia's anthem with the opera director Renato Serio. With the Neapolitan singer Mariano Apicella, he wrote two Neapolitan song albums: Meglio 'na canzone in 2003 and L'ultimo amore in 2006.
In 1965, he married Carla Elvira Dall'Oglio, and they had two children: Maria Elvira, better known as Marina (born 1966), and Pier Silvio (born 1969). By 1980, Berlusconi had established a relationship with the actress Veronica Lario (born Miriam Bartolini), with whom he subsequently had three children: Barbara (born 1984), Eleonora (born 1986) and Luigi (born 1988). He was divorced from Dall'Oglio in 1985, and married Lario in 1990. By this time, Berlusconi was a well-known entrepreneur, and his wedding was a notable social event. One of his best men was Bettino Craxi, a former prime minister and leader of the Italian Socialist Party. In May 2009, Lario announced that she was to file for divorce.
The main peculiarity of Milano Due is a system of walkways and bridges that connects the whole neighbourhood, so that it is possible to walk around without ever intersecting traffic. The works started in 1970, and were completed in 1979. Distinctive landmarks are the sporting facilities, a small artificial lake and a children's playground.
Berlusconi first entered the media world in 1973, by setting up a small cable television company, TeleMilano, to service units built on his Segrate properties. It began transmitting in September the following year. TeleMilano was the first Italian private television channel, and later evolved into Canale 5, the first national private TV station.
Berlusconi has never been tried on charges relating to the Cosa Nostra, although several Mafia turncoats have stated that Berlusconi had connections with the Sicilian criminal association. The claims arise mostly from the hiring of Vittorio Mangano, who was accused of being a mafioso, as a gardener and stable-man at Berlusconi's Villa San Martino in Arcore, a small town near Milan. It was Berlusconi's friend Marcello Dell'Utri who introduced Mangano to Berlusconi in 1973. Berlusconi denied any ties to the Mafia. Marcello Dell'Utri even stated that the Mafia did not exist at all.
After buying two further channels, Berlusconi relocated the station to central Milan in 1977 and began broadcasting over the airwaves.
In 1978, Berlusconi founded his first media group, Fininvest, and joined the Propaganda Due masonic lodge. In the five years leading up to 1983 he earned some 113 billion Italian lire (€58.3 million). The funding sources are still unknown because of a complex system of holding companies, despite investigations conducted by various state attorneys.
Fininvest soon expanded into a country-wide network of local TV stations which had similar programming, forming, in effect, a single national network. This was seen as breaching the Italian public broadcaster RAI's statutory monopoly by creating a national network, which was later abolished. In 1980, Berlusconi founded Italy's first private national network, Canale 5, followed shortly thereafter by Italia 1, which was bought from the Rusconi family in 1982, and Rete 4, which was bought from Mondadori in 1984. He then launched three international sister networks: La Cinq (which began operations in 1986), Tele 5 (which launched in 1988), and Telecinco (which launched in 1989). La Cinq and Tele 5 ceased operations in 1992 and were later replaced by La Cinquième and DSF, respectively.
Berlusconi created the first and only Italian commercial TV empire. He was assisted by his connections to Bettino Craxi, secretary-general of the Italian Socialist Party and also prime minister of Italy at that time, whose government passed, on 20 October 1984, an emergency decree legalising the nationwide transmissions made by Berlusconi's television stations. This was in response to judgements on 16 October 1984, in Turin, Pescara and Rome, enforcing a law which previously restricted nationwide broadcasting to RAI, that had ordered these private networks to cease transmitting.
After political turmoil in 1985, the decree was approved definitively. But for some years, Berlusconi's three channels remained in a legal limbo, and were not allowed to broadcast news and political commentary. They were elevated to the status of full national TV channels in 1990, by the so-called Mammì law.
Berlusconi rapidly rose to the forefront of Italian politics in January 1994. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and appointed as Prime Minister following the 1994 parliamentary elections, when Forza Italia gained a relative majority a mere three months after having been launched. However, his cabinet collapsed after nine months, due to internal disagreements among the coalition parties. In the April 1996 snap parliamentary elections, Berlusconi was defeated by the centre-left candidate Romano Prodi. In the May 2001 parliamentary elections, he was again the centre-right candidate for Prime Minister and won against the centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli. Berlusconi then formed his second and third cabinets, until 2006. Berlusconi was leader of the centre-right coalition in the April 2006 parliamentary elections, which he lost by a very narrow margin, his opponent again being Romano Prodi. He was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse of Prodi's government and sworn in for a third time as Prime Minister on 8 May 2008.
Berlusconi's political career began in 1994, when he entered politics, reportedly admitting to Indro Montanelli and Enzo Biagi that he was forced to do so to avoid imprisonment. He subsequently served as Prime Minister of Italy from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. His career was racked with controversies and trials; amongst these was his failure to honour his promise to sell his personal assets in Mediaset, the largest television broadcaster in Italy, in order to dispel any perceived conflicts of interest.
In the early 1990s, the Pentapartito – the five governing parties, Christian Democracy (Democrazia Cristiana), the Italian Socialist Party, the Italian Social-Democratic Party, the Italian Republican Party and the Italian Liberal Party – lost much of their electoral strength almost overnight due to a large number of judicial investigations concerning the financial corruption of many of their foremost members (see the Mani Pulite affair). This led to a general expectation that upcoming elections would be won by the Democratic Party of the Left, the heirs to the former Italian Communist Party, and their Alliance of Progressives coalition – unless an alternative arose. On 26 January 1994, Berlusconi announced his decision to enter politics, ("enter the field", in his own words) presenting his own political party, Forza Italia, on a platform focused on defeating the Communists. His political aim was to convince the voters of the Pentapartito, who were shocked and confused by Mani Pulite scandals, that Forza Italia offered both a fresh uniqueness and the continuation of the pro-western free market policies followed by Italy since the end of the Second World War. Shortly after he decided to enter the political arena, investigators into the Mani Pulite affair were said to be close to issuing warrants for the arrest of Berlusconi and senior executives of his business group. During his political career Berlusconi repeatedly stated that the Mani Pulite investigations were led by communist prosecutors who wanted to establish a soviet-style government in Italy.
Berlusconi launched a massive campaign of electoral advertisements on his three TV networks, and preparing his top advertising salesmen with seminars and screen tests, of whom 50 were subsequently elected despite an absence legislative experience. He subsequently won the elections, with Forza Italia garnering 21% of the popular vote, more than any other single party. One of the most significant promises that he made in order to secure victory was that his government would create "one million more jobs". He was appointed Prime Minister in 1994, but his term in office was short because of the inherent contradictions in his coalition: the League, a regional party with a strong electoral base in northern Italy, was at that time fluctuating between federalist and separatist positions, and the National Alliance was a nationalist party that had yet to renounce neo-fascism at the time.
In December 1994, following the leaking to the press of news of a fresh investigation by Milan magistrates, Umberto Bossi, leader of the Lega Nord, left the coalition claiming that the electoral pact had not been respected, forcing Berlusconi to resign from office and shifting the majority's weight to the centre-left. Lega Nord also resented the fact that many of its MPs had switched to Forza Italia, allegedly lured by promises of more prestigious portfolios. In 1998, various articles attacking Berlusconi were published by Lega Nord's official newspaper La Padania, with titles such as "La Fininvest è nata da Cosa Nostra" – "Fininvest (Berlusconi's principal company) was founded by the Mafia".
Berlusconi's career as an entrepreneur is also often questioned by his detractors. The allegations made against him generally include suspicions about the extremely rapid increase of his activity in the construction industry in the years 1961–63, hinting at the possibility that in those years he received money from unknown and possibly illegal sources. These accusations are regarded by Berlusconi and his supporters as empty slander, trying to undermine Berlusconi's reputation as a self-made man. Also frequently cited by opponents are events dating to the 1980s, including supposed "exchanges of favours" between Berlusconi and Bettino Craxi, the former Socialist prime minister and leader of the Italian Socialist Party convicted in 1994, for various corruption charges. The Milan magistrates who indicted and successfully convicted Mr. Craxi in their "Clean Hands" investigation laid bare an entrenched system in which businessmen paid hundreds of millions of dollars to political parties or individual politicians in exchange for sweetheart deals with Italian state companies and the government itself. Berlusconi acknowledges a personal friendship with Craxi.
In 1995, Berlusconi sold a portion of his media holdings, first to the German media group Kirch Group (now bankrupt) and then by public offer. In 1999, Berlusconi expanded his media interests by forming a partnership with Kirch called the Epsilon MediaGroup.
Berlusconi remained as caretaker prime minister for a little over a month, until his replacement by a technocratic government headed by Lamberto Dini. Dini had been a key minister in the Berlusconi cabinet, and Berlusconi said the only way he would support a technocratic government would be if Dini headed it. In the end, however, Dini was supported by most of the opposition parties, but not by Forza Italia and Lega Nord. In 1996, Berlusconi and his coalition lost the elections and were replaced by a centre-left government led by Romano Prodi.
In 1996, a Mafia informer, Salvatore Cancemi, declared that Berlusconi and Dell'Utri were in direct contact with Salvatore Riina, head of the Sicilian Mafia in the 1980s and 1990s. Cancemi disclosed that Fininvest, through Marcello Dell'Utri and mafioso Vittorio Mangano, had paid Cosa Nostra 200 million lire (between 100,000 and 200,000 of today's euro) annually. The alleged contacts, according to Cancemi, were to lead to legislation favourable to Cosa Nostra, in particular reforming the harsh 41-bis prison regime. The underlying premise was that Cosa Nostra would support Berlusconi's Forza Italia party in return for political favours. After a two-year investigation, magistrates closed the inquiry without charges. They did not find evidence to corroborate Cancemi's allegations. Similarly, a two-year investigation, also launched on evidence from Cancemi, into Berlusconi's alleged association with the Mafia was closed in 1996.
In 2001, Berlusconi ran again, as leader of the right-wing coalition House of Freedoms (Italian: La Casa delle Libertà), which included the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, the Lega Nord, the National Alliance and other parties. Berlusconi's success in the May 2001 general election led to him becoming Prime Minister once more, with the coalition receiving 49.6% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies and 42.5% for the Senate.
On the television interviews programme Porta a Porta, during the last days of the electoral campaign, Berlusconi created a powerful impression on the public by undertaking to sign a so-called Contratto con gli Italiani (English: Contract with the Italians), an idea copied outright by his advisor Luigi Crespi from Newt Gingrich's Contract with America introduced six weeks before the 1994 US Congressional election. This was considered to be a creative masterstroke in his 2001 bid for prime ministership. Berlusconi committed in this contract to improve several aspects of the Italian economy and life. Firstly, he undertook to simplify the complex tax system by introducing just two income tax rates (33% for those earning over 100,000 euros, and 23% for anyone earning less than that figure: anyone earning less than 11,000 euros a year would not be taxed). Secondly, he promised to halve the unemployment rate. Thirdly, he committed to financing and developing a massive new public works programme. Fourthly, he promised to raise the minimum monthly pension rate to 516 euros. Fifthly, he would reduce crime by introducing police officers to patrol all local zones and areas in Italy's major cities. Berlusconi promised to not stand for re-election in 2006 if he failed to honour at least four of these five promises.
Berlusconi had made disparaging remarks about Finnish cuisine during negotiations to decide on the location of the European Food Safety Authority in 2001. He caused further offence in 2005, when he claimed that during the negotiations he had had to "dust off his playboy charms" in order to persuade the Finnish president, Tarja Halonen, to concede that the EFSA should be based in Parma instead of Finland, and compared Finnish smoked reindeer unfavourably to culatello. The Italian ambassador in Helsinki was summoned by the Finnish foreign minister. One of Berlusconi's ministers later 'explained' the comment by saying that "anyone who had seen a picture of Halonen must have been aware that he had been joking". Halonen took the incident in good humour, retorting that Berlusconi had "overestimated his persuasion skills". The Finnish pizza chain Kotipizza responded by launching a variety of pizza called Pizza Berlusconi, using smoked reindeer as the topping. The pizza won first prize in America's Plate International pizza contest in March 2008.
Berlusconi is among the most vocal supporters of closer ties between Russia and the European Union. In an article published in Italian media on 26 May 2002, he said that the next step in Russia's growing integration with the West should be EU membership. On 17 November 2005, Berlusconi commented, in relation to the prospect of such membership, that he is "convinced that even if it is a dream ... it is not too distant a dream and I think it will happen one day." The Prime Minister of Italy has made similar comments on other occasions as well.
Berlusconi owns via Mediaset 3 of 7 national TV channels: (Canale 5, Italia 1, and Rete 4). In 2002, Luciano Violante, a prominent member of the Left, said in a speech in Parliament: "Honourable Anedda, I invite you to ask the honourable Berlusconi, because he certainly knows that he received a full guarantee in 1994, when the government changed—that TV stations would not be touched. He knows it and the Honourable Letta knows it." The authors of the book Inciucio cite this sentence as evidence for the idea that the Left made a deal with Berlusconi in 1994, in which a promise was made not to honour a law in the Constitutional Court of Italy that would have required Berlusconi to give up one of his three TV channels in order to uphold pluralism and competition. According to the authors, this would be an explanation of why the Left, despite having won the 1996 elections, did not pass a law to solve the conflicts of interest between media ownership and politics.
According to yet another Mafia turncoat, Antonino Giuffrè – arrested on 16 April 2002 – the Mafia turned to Berlusconi's Forza Italia party to look after the Mafia's interests, after the decline in the early 1990s of the ruling Christian Democratic party, whose leaders in Sicily looked after the Mafia's interests in Rome. The Mafia's fall out with the Christian Democrats became clear when Salvo Lima was killed in March 1992. "The Lima murder marked the end of an era," Giuffrè told the court. "A new era opened with a new political force on the horizon which provided the guarantees that the Christian Democrats were no longer able to deliver. To be clear, that party was Forza Italia." Dell'Utri was the go-between on a range of legislative efforts to ease pressure on mafiosi in exchange for electoral support, according to Giuffrè. "Dell'Utri was very close to Cosa Nostra and a very good contact point for Berlusconi," he said. Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano told Giuffrè that they "were in good hands" with Dell'Utri, who was a "serious and trustworthy person". Provenzano stated that the Mafia's judicial problems would be resolved within 10 years of 1992, thanks to the undertakings given by Forza Italia.
Giuffrè also said that Berlusconi himself used to be in touch with Stefano Bontade, a top Mafia boss, in the mid-1970s. At the time Berlusconi still was just a wealthy real estate developer and started his private television empire. Bontade visited Berlusconi's villa in Arcore through his contact Vittorio Mangano. Berlusconi's lawyer dismissed Giuffrè's testimony as "false" and an attempt to discredit the Prime Minister and his party. Giuffrè said that other Mafia representatives who were in contact with Berlusconi included the Palermo Mafia bosses Filippo Graviano and Giuseppe Graviano. The Graviano brothers allegedly dealt directly with Berlusconi through the businessman Gianni Letta, somewhere between September/October 1993. The alleged pact with the Mafia fell apart in 2002. Cosa Nostra had achieved nothing.
During his long career as Prime Minister, Berlusconi has had to deal with massive immigration from the coast of North Africa. To limit illegal immigration, the Berlusconi's government promulgated the Bossi-Fini law in 2002. This law took the name by the leaders of the two right-wing allied parties in Berlusconi's government coalition, Umberto Bossi of Lega Nord and Gianfranco Fini of National Alliance.
The House of Freedoms did not do as well in the 2003 local elections as it did in the 2001 national elections. In common with many other European governing groups, in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, gaining 43.37% support. Forza Italia's support was also reduced from 29.5% to 21.0% (in the 1999 European elections Forza Italia had 25.2%). As an outcome of these results the other coalition parties, whose electoral results were more satisfactory, asked Berlusconi and Forza Italia for greater influence in the government's political line.
Difficulties in negotiating an agreement caused some internal unrest in the Berlusconi government in 2003, but they were mostly overcome and the law (including devolution of powers to the regions, Federal Senate and "strong premiership") was passed by the Senate in April 2004; it was slightly modified by the Chamber of Deputies in October 2004, and again in October 2005, and finally approved by the Senate on 16 November 2005, with a narrow majority. Approval in a referendum is necessary in order to amend the Italian Constitution without a qualified two-thirds parliamentary majority. The referendum was held on 25–26 July 2006 and resulted in the rejection of the constitutional reform, with 61.3% of voters casting ballots against it.
Berlusconi and his cabinets have had a strong tendency to support American foreign policies, despite the policy divide between the U.S. and many founding members of the European Union (Germany, France, Belgium) during the Bush administration. Under Berlusconi's lead, the Italian Government also shifted its traditional position on foreign policy from being the most pro-Arab western government towards a greater friendship with Israel and Turkey than in the past. This resulted in a rebalancing of relations between all the Mediterranean countries, to reach equal closeness with them. Berlusconi is one of the strongest supporters of Turkey's application to accede to the European Union. In order to support Turkey's application the Italian Premier invited Prime Minister Erdoğan to take part in a meeting of the European leaders of Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, gathered in L'Aquila for the 2009 G8 summit. Italy, with Berlusconi in office, became a solid ally of the United States due to his support for the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War following the 2003 invasion of Iraq in the War on Terror. On 30 January 2003, Berlusconi signed The letter of the eight supporting US. policy on Iraq.
The TV broadcasting of a satirical programme called RAIot was censored in November 2003 after the comedian Sabina Guzzanti made outspoken criticism of the Berlusconi media empire. Mediaset, one of Berlusconi's companies, sued RAI over Guzzanti's program, demanding 20 million euros for "damages"; in November 2003 the show was cancelled by the president of RAI, Lucia Annunziata. The details of the event were made into a Michael Moore-style documentary called Viva Zapatero!, which was produced by Guzzanti.
On 2 July 2003, Berlusconi suggested that German Social democratic MEP Martin Schulz, who had criticised his domestic policies, should play a Nazi concentration camp guard in a film. Berlusconi insisted that he was joking, but accused Schulz and others to be "bad-willing tourists of democracy". This incident caused a brief cooling of Italy's relationship with Germany.
Addressing traders at the New York Stock Exchange in September 2003, Berlusconi listed a series of reasons to invest in Italy, the first of which was that "we have the most beautiful secretaries in the world". This remark resulted in remonstration among female members of parliament, who took part in a one-day cross-party protest. Berlusconi's list also included the claim that Italy had "fewer communists, and those who are still here deny having been one".
In 2003, during an interview with Nicholas Farrell, then editor of The Spectator, Berlusconi claimed that Mussolini "had been a benign dictator who did not murder opponents but sent them 'on holiday'". In 2013, he returned to calling Mussolini a good leader whose biggest mistake was signing up to exterminate the Jews.
Berlusconi's extensive control over the media has been widely criticised by some analysts, some press freedom organisations, and extensively by several Italian newspapers, national and private TV channels, by opposition leaders and in general members of opposition parties, who allege that Italy's media has limited freedom of expression. However such coverage of the complaint in practice put under discussion the point of the complaint itself. The Freedom of the Press 2004 Global Survey, an annual study issued by the American organisation Freedom House, downgraded Italy's ranking from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' due to Berlusconi's influence over RAI, a ranking which, in "Western Europe" was shared only with Turkey (as of 2005). Reporters Without Borders states that in 2004, "The conflict of interests involving Prime Minister Berlusconi and his vast media empire was still not resolved and continued to threaten news diversity". In April 2004, the International Federation of Journalists joined the criticism, objecting to the passage of a law vetoed by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in 2003, which critics believe is designed to protect Berlusconi's reported 90% control of the Italian national media.
Berlusconi and his government quarrelled with the Italian judiciary often. His administration attempted to pass a judicial reform intended to limit the flexibility of judges and magistrates in their decision-making. Critics said it would instead limit the magistracy's independence by de facto subjecting the judiciary to the executive's control. The reform was met by almost unanimous dissent from the Italian judges, but was passed by the Italian parliament in December 2004. It was vetoed by the Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
In 2004, Dell'Utri, co-founder of Forza Italia, was sentenced to nine years by a Palermo court on charge of "external association to the Mafia", a sentence describing Dell'Utri as a mediator between the economic interests of Berlusconi and members of the criminal organisation. Berlusconi refused to comment on the sentence. In 2010, Palermo's appeals court cut the sentence to seven years but fully confirmed Dell'Utri's role as a link between Berlusconi and the Mafia until 1992.
In the 2005 regional elections (3 April/4 April 2005), centre-left candidates the for regional presidencies won in 12 out of 14 regions where control of local governments and presidencies were at stake. Berlusconi's coalition held only two of the regions (Lombardy and Veneto) up for re-election. Three parties, Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, National Alliance and New Italian Socialist Party, threatened to withdraw from the Berlusconi government. Berlusconi after some hesitation, then presented to the President of the Republic a request for the dissolution of his government on 20 April 2005. On 23 April, he formed a new government with the same allies, reshuffling ministers and amending the government programme. A key point demanded by the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (and to a lesser extent by National Alliance) for their continued support was that the strong focus on tax reduction be reduced.
The Mediaset trial was launched in April 2005, with indictment of fourteen people (including Berlusconi) for having committed:
On 2 December 2006, during a major demonstration of the centre-right in Rome against the government led by Romano Prodi, Berlusconi proposed the foundation of a "Freedom Party", arguing that the people and voters of the different political movements aligned to the demonstration were all part of a "people of freedom".
Berlusconi's governments passed laws that shortened statutory terms for tax fraud. Romano Prodi, who defeated Berlusconi in 2006, claimed that these were ad personam laws, meant to solve Berlusconi's problems and defend his interests.
Mediaset, Berlusconi's television group, has stated that it uses the same criteria as the public (state-owned) television RAI in assigning a proper visibility to all the most important political parties and movements (the so-called 'Par Condicio') – which has been since often disproved. In March 2006, on the television channel Rai Tre, in a television interview with Lucia Annunziata during her talk show, In 1/2 h, he stormed out of the studio because of a disagreement with the host regarding the economic consequences of his government. In November 2007, allegations of news manipulation caused the departure from RAI of Berlusconi's personal assistant.
In March 2006, Berlusconi alleged that Chinese communists under Mao Zedong had "boiled [children] to fertilise the fields". His opponent Romano Prodi criticised Berlusconi for offending the Chinese people and called his comments 'unthinkable'.
On 18 November 2007, after claiming the collection of more than 7 million signatures (including that of Umberto Bossi) demanding that the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano call a fresh election, Berlusconi announced from the running board of a car in a crowded Piazza San Babila in Milan that Forza Italia would soon merge or transform into The People of Freedom party, also known as the PdL (Il Popolo della Libertà). Berlusconi also stated that this new political movement could include the participation of other parties. Both supporters and critics of the new party called Berlusconi's announcement "the running board revolution".
In November 2007, Italy's state-owned energy company Eni signed an agreement with Russian state-owned Gazprom to build the South Stream pipeline. Investigating Italian parliament members discovered that Central Energy Italian Gas Holding (CEIGH), a part of the Centrex Group, was to play a major role in the lucrative agreement. Bruno Mentasti-Granelli, a close friend of Berlusconi, owned 33 percent of CEIGH. The Italian parliament blocked the contract and accused Berlusconi of having a personal interest in the Eni-Gazprom agreement.
Both indictments were related to achievement of personal tax evasion, through illicit trade of movie rights between Mediaset and secret fictive foreign companies situated in tax haven nations, causing fictive losses for Mediaset, with the trade gains being accumulated by the foreign companies owned by the indicted tax fraudsters, who ultimately had the gains paid out as personal profit without paying tax in Italy. In 2007, the court case at first-instance had not yet been launched, and the prosecutors dropped the (A) charges against Berlusconi due to the statute of limitations, and for the same reason the (B) charges were narrowed down to the 1994–98 period, in which the prosecutor charged Berlusconi for having committed a personal tax evasion of €7.3 million.
In December 2007, the audio recording of a phone call between Berlusconi, then leader of the opposition, and Agostino Saccà (general director of RAI) were published by the magazine L'espresso and caused a scandal in the media.
After the sudden fall of the Prodi II Cabinet on 24 January, the break-up of The Union coalition and the subsequent political crisis (which paved the way for a fresh general election in April 2008), Berlusconi, Gianfranco Fini and other party leaders finally agreed on 8 February 2008 to form a joint list named The People of Freedom (Italian: Il Popolo della Libertà), allied with the Lega Nord of Umberto Bossi and with the Sicilian Movement for Autonomy of Raffaele Lombardo.
In the snap parliamentary elections held on 13/14 April 2008, this coalition won against Walter Veltroni's centre-left coalition in both houses of the Italian Parliament.
In the 315-member Senate of the Republic, Berlusconi's coalition won 174 seats to Veltroni's 134. In the lower house, Berlusconi's conservative bloc led by a margin of 9% of the vote: 46.5% (344 seats) to 37.5% (246 seats). Berlusconi capitalised on discontent over the nation's stagnating economy and the unpopularity of Prodi's government. His declared top priorities were to remove piles of rubbish from the streets of Naples and to improve the state of the Italian economy, which had under-performed the rest of the Eurozone for years. He also said he was open to working with the opposition, and pledged to fight tax avoidance and tax evasion, reform the judicial system and reduce public debt. He intended to reduce the number of Cabinet ministers to 12. Berlusconi and his ministers (Berlusconi IV Cabinet) were sworn in on 8 May 2008.
On 21 November 2008, the National Council of Forza Italia, chaired by Alfredo Biondi and attended by Berlusconi himself, dissolved Forza Italia and established The People of Freedom, whose inauguration took place on 27 March 2009, the 15th anniversary of Berlusconi's first electoral victory.
On 30 August 2008, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi signed a historic cooperation treaty in Benghazi. Under its terms, Italy would pay $5 billion to Libya as compensation for its former military occupation. In exchange, Libya would take measures to combat illegal immigration coming from its shores and boost investment in Italian companies. The treaty was ratified by the Italian government on 6 February 2009, and by Libya on 2 March, during a visit to Tripoli by Berlusconi. In June Gaddafi made his first visit to Rome, where he met Prime Minister Berlusconi, Italian President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano and Senate's Speaker Renato Schifani.
Berlusconi has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the legal degree of the former Operation "Clean Hands" magistrate and leader of the Italy of Values party, Antonio Di Pietro, when he during a 2008 election rally and in an episode of the talk show Porta a Porta in March 2008 he repeatedly claimed that Di Pietro had not obtained his degree by passing the exams, but with the aid of the secret services, in order to have a judge placed in the system to overturn the parties of the so-called First Republic. Di Pietro subsequently sued Berlusconi for aggravated defamation in June 2008. The public prosecutor concluded the preliminary investigation 13 November 2009, by indicting Berlusconi for the defamation offence referred to in Article 595 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code. The Italian Chamber of Deputies then intervened in the case by passing a decree 22 September 2010, granting all Italian parliamentarians "absolute immunity" for words spoken while elected.
Enrico Mentana, the news anchor long seen as a guarantor of Canale 5's independence, walked out in April 2008, saying that he no longer felt "at home in a group that seems like an electoral campaign committee".
Lane points out that Berlusconi has not defended himself in court against the main charges, but has relied upon political and legal manipulations, most notably by changing the statute of limitation to prevent charges being completed in the first place. In order to publicly prove the truth of the documented accusations contained in their articles, the newspaper has publicly challenged Berlusconi to sue The Economist for libel. Berlusconi did so, losing versus The Economist, and being charged for all the trial costs on 5 September 2008, when the Court in Milan issued a judgment rejecting all Mr Berlusconi's claims and sentenced him to compensate for The Economist's legal expenses.
In the run-up to the 2008 Italian general election, Berlusconi was accused of sexism for saying that female politicians from the right were "more beautiful" and that "the left has no taste, even when it comes to women". In 2008 Berlusconi criticised the composition of the Council of Ministers of the Spanish Government as being too 'pink' by virtue of the fact that it had (once the President of the Council, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is counted) an equal number of men and women. He also stated that he doubted that such a composition would be possible in Italy given the "prevalence of men" in Italian politics.
Also in 2008, Berlusconi caused controversy at a joint press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin. When a journalist from the Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta asked a question about Mr. Putin's personal relationships, Berlusconi made a gesture towards the journalist imitating a gunman shooting.
On 6 November 2008, two days after Barack Obama was elected the first black US president, Berlusconi referred to Obama as "young, handsome and even tanned": On 26 March 2009 he said "I'm paler [than Mr. Obama], because it's been so long since I went sunbathing. He's more handsome, younger and taller."
Ten days later, Letizia's ex-boyfriend, Luigi Flaminio, claimed that Berlusconi had contacted Letizia personally in October 2008 and said she had spent a week without her parents at Berlusconi's Sardinian villa around New Year's Eve 2009, a fact confirmed later by her mother. On 28 May 2009, Berlusconi said that he had never had "spicy" relations with Letizia, and said that if any such thing had occurred, he would have resigned immediately.
While Forza Italia had never held a formal party congress to formulate its rules, procedures, and democratic balloting for candidates and issues, (since 1994 three party conventions of Forza Italia have been held, all of them resolving to support Berlusconi and reelecting him by acclamation) on 27 March 2009, at the foundation congress of the People of Freedom political movement the statute of the new party was subject to a vote of approval. On 5,820 voting delegates, 5,811 voted in favour, 4 against and 5 abstained. During that political congress Berlusconi was elected as Chairman of the People of Freedom by a show of hands. According to the official minutes of the congress the result favoured Berlusconi, with 100 per cent of the delegates voting for him.
Between 2009 and 2010, Gianfranco Fini, former leader of the national conservative National Alliance (AN) and President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, became a vocal critic of the leadership of Berlusconi. Fini departed from party's majority line on several issues but, most of all, he was a proponent of a more structured party organisation. His criticism was aimed at the leadership style of Berlusconi, who tends to rely on his personal charisma to lead the party from the centre and supports a less structured form of party, a movement-party that organises itself only at election times.
Berlusconi visited Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus in 2009. Berlusconi became the first Western leader to visit Lukashenko since Lukashenko came to power in 1994. At a press conference, Berlusconi paid compliments to Lukashenko and said "Good luck to you and your people, whom I know love you".
On 5 April 2009, at the EU-US summit in Prague Berlusconi proposed an eight-point road map to accelerate the Euro-Atlantic integration of the western Balkans. During that summit the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged his European colleagues to send "visible and concrete" signs to the countries concerned (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania).
On 24 June 2009, Berlusconi during the Confindustria young members congress in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy has invited the advertisers to interrupt or boycott the advertising contracts with the magazines and newspapers published by Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, in particular la Repubblica and the newsmagazine L'espresso, calling the publishing group "shameless", claiming that it was fuelling the economic crisis by discussing it extensively and accusing it of making a "subversive attack" against him. The publishing group announced it would begin legal proceedings against Berlusconi, given the "criminal and civil relevance" of his remarks.
On 12 October 2009, Berlusconi during the Confindustria Monza and Brianza members' congress, again invited the industrialists present to join a "widespread rebellion" against a "newspaper that hadn't any limits in discrediting the government and the country and indoctrinating foreign newspapers".
In October 2009, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard declared that Berlusconi "is on the verge of being added to our list of Predators of Press Freedom", which would be a first for a European leader. He also added that Italy will probably be ranked last in the European Union in the upcoming edition of the RWB press freedom index.
In October 2009, Gaspare Spatuzza, a Mafioso turncoat in 2008, has confirmed Giuffrè statements. Spatuzza testified that his boss Giuseppe Graviano had told him in 1994, that Berlusconi was bargaining with the Mafia, concerning a political-electoral agreement between Cosa Nostra and Berlusconi's Forza Italia. Spatuzza said Graviano disclosed the information to him during a conversation in a bar Graviano owned in the upscale Via Veneto district of the Italian capital Rome. Dell'Utri was the intermediary, according to Spatuzza. Dell'Utri has dismissed Spatuzza's allegations as "nonsense". Berlusconi's lawyer and MP for the PdL, Niccolò Ghedini said that "the statements given by Spatuzza about prime minister Berlusconi are baseless and can be in no way verified."
On 24 January 2009, Berlusconi announced his aim to increase the numbers of military patrolling the Italian cities from 3,000 to 30,000 in order to crack down on what he called an "evil army" of criminals. Responding to a female journalist who asked him if this tenfold increase in patrolling soldiers would be enough to secure Italian women from being raped, he said: "We could not field a big enough force to avoid this risk [of rape]. We would need as many soldiers as beautiful women and I don't think that would be possible, because our women are so beautiful." Opposition leaders called the remarks insensitive and in bad taste. Berlusconi retorted that he had merely wanted to compliment Italian women. Other critics accused him of creating a police state.
At the end of April 2009, Berlusconi's wife Veronica Lario, who would divorce him several years later, wrote an open letter expressing her anger at Berlusconi's choice of young, attractive female candidates—some with little or no political experience—to represent the party in the 2009 European Parliament elections. Berlusconi demanded a public apology, claiming that for the third time his wife had "done this to me in the middle of an election campaign", and stated that there was little prospect of his marriage continuing. On 3 May, Lario announced she was filing for divorce. She claimed that Berlusconi had not attended his own sons' 18th birthday parties, and that she "cannot remain with a man who consorts with minors" and "is not well".
On 17 June 2009, Patrizia D'Addario, a 42-year-old escort and retired actress from Bari, Italy, claimed that she had been recruited twice to spend the evening with Berlusconi. Berlusconi denied any knowledge of D'Addario being a paid escort: "I have never paid a woman... I have never understood what satisfaction there is if the pleasure of conquest is absent". He also accused an unspecified person of manoeuvring and bribing D'Addario.
On 26 June 2009, the "ten questions" to Berlusconi were reformulated by la Repubblica newspaper, and subsequently republished multiple times. On 28 August 2009, Berlusconi sued Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, the owner company of the newspaper, and classified the ten questions as "defamatory" and "rhetorical".
After a period of tense exchanges and polemics, on 3 September 2009, Boffo resigned from his editorial position and the assistant editor Marco Tarquinio became editor ad interim.
On 22 September 2009, after a press conference, Berlusconi declared that he had asked his ministers not to respond anymore to questions regarding "gossip". He stated also that the Italian press should talk only about the "successes" of Italian Government in internal and foreign policies, adding also that the press now will be able only to ask questions relating to his administration and not to gossip.
During a contested episode of AnnoZero on 1 October 2009, the journalist and presenter Michele Santoro interviewed Patrizia D'Addario. She stated she was contacted by Giampaolo Tarantini – a businessman from Bari – who already knew her and requested her presence at Palazzo Grazioli with "the President". D'Addario also stated that Berlusconi knew that she was a paid escort.
MP Gaetano Pecorella proposed to lower the age of majority in Italy to solve the case. Minetti was known for previous associations with Berlusconi, having danced for Colorado Cafe, a show on one of Berlusconi's TV channels, and on Scorie, an Italian version of Candid Camera. In November 2009 she became a dental hygienist, and shortly afterward treated Berlusconi for two broken teeth and facial injuries after he was attacked with a marble statue at a political rally. In February 2010, she was selected as one of the candidates representing Berlusconi's The People of Freedom party, despite her lack of any political experience, and was seated on the Regional Council of Lombardy the following month.
On 13 December 2009, Berlusconi was hit in the face with an alabaster statuette of Milan Cathedral after a rally in Milan's Piazza del Duomo. As Berlusconi was shaking hands with the public, a man in the crowd stepped forward and launched the statuette at him. The assailant was subsequently detained and identified as Massimo Tartaglia, a 42-year-old surveyor with a history of mental illness but no criminal record, living in the outskirts of Milan. According to a letter released to the Italian news agency ANSA, Tartaglia has apologised for the attack, writing: "I don't recognise myself", and adding that he had "acted alone [with no] form of militancy or political affiliation". Berlusconi suffered facial injuries, a broken nose and two broken teeth; he was subsequently hospitalised. Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and politicians from all parties in Italy condemned the attack.
Berlusconi was discharged from the hospital on 17 December 2009.
On 15 April 2010, an association named Generation Italy was launched in order to better represent Fini's views within the party and push for a different form of party organisation. On 22 April 2010 the National Committee of the PdL convened in Rome for the first time in a year. The conflict between Fini and Berlusconi was covered live on television. At the end of the day, a resolution proposed by Berlusconi's loyalists was put before the assembly and approved by a landslide margin. On 29 July 2010, the party executive released a document in which Fini was described as "incompatible" with the political line of the PdL and unable to perform his job of President of the Chamber of Deputies in a neutral way. Berlusconi asked Fini to step down, and the executive proposed the suspension from party membership of three MPs who had harshly criticised Berlusconi and accused some party members of criminal offences. As response, Fini and his followers formed their own groups in both chambers under the name of Future and Freedom (FLI). It was soon clear that FLI would leave the PdL and become an independent party. On 7 November, during a convention in Bastia Umbra, Fini asked Berlusconi to step down from his post of Prime Minister and proposed a new government including the Union of the Centre (UdC). A few days later, the four FLI members of the government resigned. On 14 December, FLI voted against Berlusconi in a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, a vote nonetheless won by Berlusconi by 314 to 311.
On 5 October 2010, the court in Viterbo ruled that Berlusconi could not be judged or punished, because of the parliamentary immunity enshrined in Article 68 of the Italian constitution forbidding any legal prosecutions against words spoken by parliamentarians in the course of their "exercise of parliamentary duties", in conjunction with the Chamber of Deputies recently having voted for a decree to grant Berlusconi absolute immunity for any spoken words while serving as a deputy. On 19 January 2012, this judgement was set aside by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Berlusconi had been speaking during a campaign rally and not in an institutional setting; meaning he was not covered by the immunity protection provided for by Article 68, and consequently should face a new trial to be held either at the Viterbo court or the Constitutional Court.
In October 2010, Berlusconi was chastised by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano after he was filmed telling "offensive and deplorable jokes", including one whose punchline was similar to one of the gravest blasphemies in the Italian language. It was also revealed he had made another antisemitic joke a few days previously. Berlusconi responded to the allegations by saying the jokes were "neither an offence nor a sin, but merely a laugh".
On 1 November 2010, after once again being accused of involvement in juvenile prostitution, he suggested that an audience at the Milan trade fair should stop reading newspapers: "Don't read newspapers any more because they deceive you. [...] I am a man who works hard all day long and if sometimes I look at some good-looking girl, it's better to be fond of pretty girls than to be gay". The remarks were immediately condemned by Arcigay, Italy's main gay rights organisation.
In November 2010, 17-year old Moroccan belly dancer and alleged prostitute Karima El Mahroug (better known as "Ruby Rubacuori") claimed to have been given $10,000 by Berlusconi at parties at his private villas. The girl told prosecutors in Milan that these events were like orgies where Berlusconi and 20 young women performed an African-style ritual known as the "bunga bunga" in the nude.
It was also found out that, on 27 May 2010, El Mahroug had been arrested for theft by the Milan police but (being still a minor) she was directed to a shelter for juvenile offenders. After a couple of hours, while she was being questioned, Berlusconi, who was at the time in Paris, called the head of the police in Milan and pressured for her release, claiming the girl was related to Hosni Mubarak, then President of Egypt, and that in order to avoid a diplomatic crisis, she was to be brought to the custody of Nicole Minetti. Following repeated telephone calls by Berlusconi to the police authorities, El Mahroug was eventually released and entrusted to Minetti's care.
The Guardian reported that according to a series of media reports in October 2010, Berlusconi had met El Mahroug, then 17, through Nicole Minetti. Mahroug insisted that she had not slept with the then 74-year-old prime minister. She told Italian newspapers that she merely attended dinner at his mansion near Milan. El Mahroug said she sat next to Berlusconi, who later took her upstairs and gave her an envelope containing €7,000. She said he also gave her jewellery.
Berlusconi's main company, Mediaset, operates three national television channels, which in total cover half of the national television sector; and Publitalia (it), the leading Italian advertising and publicity agency. Berlusconi also owns a controlling stake in Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the largest Italian publishing house, whose publications include Panorama, one of the country's most popular news magazines. His brother, Paolo Berlusconi, owns and operates il Giornale, a centre-right newspaper which provides a pro-Berlusconi slant on Italian politics. Il Foglio, one of the most influential Italian right-wing newspapers, is partially owned by his former wife, Veronica Lario. After Lario sold some of her ownership in 2010, Paolo Berlusconi acquired a majority interest in the newspaper. He founded and is the major shareholder of Fininvest, which is among the largest private companies in Italy; it operates in media and finance. With Ennio Doris he founded Mediolanum, one of the country's biggest banking and insurance groups. He has interests in cinema and home video distribution (Medusa Film and Penta Film). He also owned the football club A.C. Milan from 1986 to 2017, and currently owns A.C. Monza (since 2018).
On 9 July 2011, a Milan court ordered Fininvest to pay 560 million euros in damages to Compagnie Industriali Riunite in a long-running legal dispute.
After losing his majority in parliament amid growing fiscal problems related to the European debt crisis, Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister on 16 November 2011. In February 2013 Berlusconi has led the People of Freedom and its right-wing allies in the campaign for the parliamentary elections. Although he initially planned to run for a fifth term as Prime Minister, as part of the agreement with the Lega Nord he would instead plan to lead the coalition without becoming Prime Minister. Berlusconi's Centre-right coalition gained 29% of votes, ranking second, after the centre-left coalition Italy Common Good led by Pier Luigi Bersani. Subsequently, the PdL was supporting the government of Enrico Letta, together with the Democratic Party and the centrist Civic Choice of former Prime Minister Mario Monti.
In May 2011, PdL suffered a big blow in local elections. Particularly painful was the loss of Milan, Berlusconi's hometown and party stronghold. In response to this and to conflicts within party ranks, Angelino Alfano, the Justice minister, was chosen as national secretary in charge of reorganising and renewing the party. The appointment of 40-year-old Alfano, a former Christian Democrat and later leader of Forza Italia in Sicily, was unanimously decided by the party executive. On 1 July, the National Council modified the party's constitution and Alfano was elected secretary almost unanimously. In his acceptance speech, Alfano proposed the introduction of primaries.
On 12 November 2011, after a final meeting with his cabinet, Berlusconi met Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Palazzo del Quirinale to tend his resignation. As he arrived at the presidential residence, a hostile crowd gathered with banners insulting Berlusconi and throwing coins at the car. After his resignation, the booing and jeering continued as he left in his convoy, with the public shouting words such as "buffoon", "dictator" and "mafioso". Following Berlusconi's resignation, Mario Monti formed a new government that would remain in office until the next scheduled elections in 2013. On 16 November, Monti announced that he had formed a Cabinet and was sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy, also appointing himself as Minister of Economy and Finances.
In the following years Berlusconi often expressed his point of view regarding his resignation in 2011. He accused Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Christine Lagarde and Giorgio Napolitano, along with other global economic and financial powers, to have plotted against him and forced him to resign, because he refused to accept a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which according to him, would have sold the country to the IMF. This theory was confirmed by the former Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
The two leaders often described their relationship as a close friendship, continuing to organize bilateral meetings even after Berlusconi's resignation in November 2011.
However, when Gaddafi faced a civil war in 2011, Italy imposed a freeze on some Libyan assets linked to him and his family, pursuant to a United Nations-sponsored regime and then bombed the country with the violation of Libya of the No-Fly Zone. After the death of Gaddafi, Italy recognized the National Transitional Council as the government of Libya.
Berlusconi defines himself as moderate, liberal, and a free trader, but he is often accused of being a populist and a conservative. After his resignation in 2011, Berlusconi has become increasingly Eurosceptic, and he is often critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In February 2011, Berlusconi was charged with paying for sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug (also known by the stage name Ruby Rubacuori) between February and May 2010, when she was one year below the legal 18 years age-limit for providing sexual services. He was also charged with abusing his political powers in an attempt to cover up the relationship (by trying to persuade the police to release the girl while she was under arrest for theft, based on a false claim that she was a relative of Hosni Mubarak's).
In June 2011, The Economist published a strong article dealing with Mr. Berlusconi, titled "The man who screwed an entire country".
On 13 July 2011, according to a leaked telephone surveillance transcript, Berlusconi told his presumed blackmailer Valter Lavitola: "The only thing they can say about me is that I screw around [...] Now they're spying on me, controlling my phone calls. I don't give a fuck. In a few months [...] I'll be leaving this shit country that makes me sick."
In January 2011, Berlusconi was placed under criminal investigation relating to El Mahroug for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute and for abuse of office relating to her release from detention. Berlusconi's lawyers were quick to deny the allegations as "absurd and without foundation" and called the investigation a "serious interference with the private life of the prime minister without precedent in the judicial history of the country".
On 15 February 2011, a judge indicted Berlusconi to stand trial on charges carrying up to 15 years in prison. Paying for sex with a minor in Italy is punished within a range of six months to three years imprisonment, while the crime of malfeasance in office (It: concussione) is more severely punished, from four years to twelve years imprisonment, as it is considered a type of extortion committed by a public officer.
On 28 December 2012, Berlusconi was ordered to pay his ex-wife Veronica Lario US$48 million a year in a divorce settlement that was filed Christmas Day, but could keep the $100 million house they live in with their three children.
In December 2012, Berlusconi announced on television that he would run again to become Prime Minister. Berlusconi said his party's platform would include opposition to Monti's economic performance, which he said put Italy into a "recessive spiral without end." He also told the media, on the sidelines of A.C. Milan's practice session (the football club he owns along with Mediaset, the largest media outlet in the country): "I race to win. To win, everyone said there had to be a tested leader. It's not that we did not look for one. We did, and how! But there isn't one...I'm doing it out of a sense of responsibility."
In February 2012, Milan prosecutors brought charges against Berlusconi for alleged abuse of office connected with the publication of confidential wiretaps by the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi's brother, in 2005. The publication of the conversations between then Governor of the Bank of Italy Antonio Fazio, senior management of Unipol and Italian centre-left politician Piero Fassino was a breach of secrecy rules and was seen at the time as an attempt to discredit Berlusconi's political rivals. Their publication also eventually led to the collapse of the proposed takeover of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro by Unipol and the resignation of Fazio. The head of the company used by Italian prosecutors to record the conversations has been previously convicted of stealing the recordings and making them available to Berlusconi. On 7 February 2012, at an initial court hearing, Berlusconi denied he had listened to the tapes and ordered their publication. On 7 March 2013, Berlusconi was sentenced to a one-year jail term. On 31 March 2014, the Milan Court of Appeal ruled that whilst the evidence did not clear Paolo and Silvio Berlusconi from guilt, they were both acquitted due to the statutes of limitations, although a €80,000 compensatory award to Fassino was upheld.
On 26 October 2012, Berlusconi was sentenced to four years of punishment by an Italian court for tax evasion. The charges were in relation to a scheme to purchase overseas film rights at inflated prices through offshore companies. The four-year term was longer than the three years and eight months the prosecutors had requested, but was shortened to one year in accord with a 2006 amnesty law intended to reduce prison overcrowding. Berlusconi and his co-defendants were also ordered to pay a 10 million euro fine and were banned from holding public office for three years.
The deliberations of the Senate committee are expected to last for several weeks, before they reach a decision. According to the Severino law, which became enacted by the Monti government in December 2012, anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison is deemed ineligible to hold public office for a period of six years (or eight years if convicted for "abuse of power"), and should immediately be expelled from the parliament. Berlusconi has argued that the Severino law can not be used to expel persons convicted for crimes committed before December 2012, and pleaded for the proceedings to be postponed until the European Court of Human Rights or Italy's constitutional court had ruled, whether or not he was correct about his interpretation of the law. Berlusconi also stated that he in any case had decided to appeal the court ruling against him to the European Court of Human Rights, as he still claimed the ruling itself to be a political and unjust attempt by his opponents, to deprive him of his political power. The response by Prime Minister Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party was however to reject Berlusconi's plea, accusing him of only launching time-wasting maneuvers. Berlusconi's PDL party then made a threat to withdraw their support for the government if the Senate committee expelled Berlusconi as senator. The Democratic Party replied by warning the PDL that they would reject any blackmail attempts, and in any case only would vote in the Senate committee according to the standard of the Italian law. Ahead of the Senate committee's voting, the leading criminal lawyer Paola Severino, who helped design the Severino law, stated to the La Repubblica newspaper that this specific law in her professional opinion clearly also applied for crimes being committed before its enactment in December 2012.
In 2012, Forbes magazine reported that Berlusconi was Italy's sixth richest man, with a net worth of $5.9 billion. He holds significant assets in television, newspaper, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, insurance, and sports.
On 7 January 2013, Berlusconi announced he had made a coalition agreement (Centre-right coalition) with Lega Nord (LN); as part of it, PdL would support Roberto Maroni's bid for the presidency of Lombardy, and he will run as "leader of the coalition", but suggested he could accept a role as Minister of Economy under a cabinet headed by another People of Freedom member, such as Angelino Alfano. Later that day, LN leader Maroni confirmed his party will not support Berlusconi being appointed as Prime Minister in the case of an electoral win. Berlusconi's coalition gained 29.1% of votes and 125 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 30.7% of votes and 117 seats in the Senate.
In April 2013, Berlusconi's People of Freedom announced his support of the government of Enrico Letta, together with the Democratic Party and the centrist Civic Choice, of former Prime Minister Mario Monti.
In June 2013, Berlusconi announced the refoundation of his first party Forza Italia. On 18 September the new party was launched and officially founded on 16 November. After the foundation of Forza Italia, Berlusconi announced that his new party will be opposed to the Grand coalition government of Enrico Letta; but the new political position taken by Berlusconi caused dissent in the movement, and the "governmental" wing of Forza Italia, led by the Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano split from FI and founded a Christian democratic party called New Centre-Right, in support of the government.
1 August 2013, he was convicted of tax-fraud by the court of final instance, the Court of Cassation, confirming his four-year prison sentence (of which three years are automatically pardoned) along with a public office ban for two years. As his age exceeded 70 years, he was exempted from direct imprisonment, and instead served his sentence by doing unpaid social community work. Because he was sentenced to a gross imprisonment of more than two years, a new Italian anticorruption law resulted in the Senate expelling and barring him from serving in any legislative office for six years. Berlusconi has pledged to stay leader of Forza Italia throughout his custodial sentence and public office ban. However he was not able to campaign for his party and, according to him, this was the main reason for declining opinion poll numbers, which are putting the party steadily in fourth place, behind the Democratic Party, the Five Star Movement and FI's long-time coalition partner Lega Nord.
According to Berlusconi's political and entrepreneurial opponents, Berlusconismo is only a form of demagogic populism, comparable to Fascism, in part because Berlusconi has defended aspects of the regime of Benito Mussolini, even though he has criticised the racial Fascist laws and the alliance with Nazi Germany. In 2013, he returned to calling Mussolini a good leader whose biggest mistake was signing up to exterminate the Jews. Contrastingly his supporters compare Berlusconismo to French Gaullism and Argentinian Peronism.
In February 2013, Berlusconi was under investigation for corruption and illegal financing of political parties by the public prosecutor of Naples, in the figures of Vincenzo Piscitelli, Henry John Woodcock, Francesco Curcio, Alessandro Milita and Fabrizio Vanorio. He is accused of bribing in 2006, with €3 million (of which 1 million and 2 million declared to the tax authorities in black), directed to Senator Sergio De Gregorio (the former leader of the Italians in the World party) to facilitate its passage into the ranks of the Berlusconi-led coalition House of Freedoms. Along with Berlusconi, a journalist (Valter Lavitola) at the head of the socialist newspaper L'Avanti! was also investigated, and Sergio De Gregorio self-confessed being the recipient of the bribery.
On 23 October 2013, Berlusconi and Valter Lavitola were both indicted by the judge for preliminary hearings, Amelia Primavera. For Senator De Gregorio the process has already been closed in a preliminary hearing, because he opted to voluntarily confess and bargained a reduced sentence of 20 months in prison for the crime. The court hearing at first-instance for the indicted Berlusconi, has been scheduled to start on 11 February 2014. During the court proceedings, ex-senator Paolo Rossi (a former member of The Olive Tree party) also testified to have been offered a bribe from Berlusconi by another ex-Senator Antonio Tomassini (a former member of the defunct Christian Democrats), to change political sides and join Berlusconi's center-right bloc, so that they together could cause the fall of the Romano Prodi government in 2006–08. According to the prosecutors, Valter Lavitola was also working on behalf of Berlusconi as a go-between attempting to also bribe other senators.
On 10 January 2013, the Viterbo court decided to transfer the case for judgement directly to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled on 20 June 2013, that the Chamber of Deputies decree having extended Berlusconi's immunity beyond what was provided for by the constitution, was a case with conflict of powers and should be disregarded. This mean that Berlusconi does not enjoy any special immunity protection for his spoken words during election campaigns, and that a court case now shall be held by the constitutional court, to decide the merits of the case. Before the case against Berlusconi can begin, the Italian Chamber of Deputies however shall be called for trial to defend and explain the reasons for passing their unconstitutional law from 2010. The court hearing against the Chamber of Deputies took place on 8 July 2014, where the constitutional court was asked to deem the concerned Chamber of Deputies decree to be unconstitutional and annul it, by the Court of Rome and the Viterbo court. On 18 July 2014, the Constitutional Court indeed ruled the decree to be unconstitutional and annulled it; meaning that the civil court proceedings against Berlusconi now can continue.
The fast-track trial opened on 6 April and was adjourned until 31 May. El Mahroug's lawyer said that Mahroug would not be attaching herself to the case as a civil complainant and denies that she ever made herself available for money. Another alleged victim, Giorgia Iafrate, also decided not to be a party to the case. In January 2013, judges rejected an application from Berlusconi's lawyers to have the trial adjourned so that it would not interfere with Italy's 2013 general election in which Berlusconi was participating. On 24 June 2013, Berlusconi was found guilty of paying El Mahroug for sex when she was 17 years old, and of abusing his powers in an ensuing cover up. He was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to seven years in jail, and banned from public office for life. In January 2014, Berlusconi deposited an appeal against the judgment, requesting complete absolution. The appeal process began on 20 June. On 18 July 2014, the Italian appeals court announced the appeal had been successful and the convictions against Berlusconi were being overturned. According to the court's published summary of the judgement, Berlusconi was acquitted from the extortion charges (abuse of power) because "the fact does not exist" and from the child prostitution charge because "the fact is not a crime". The more detailed court reasoning for acquittal will be published within 90 days, and the prosecutor stated he would then most likely appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation.
On 8 May 2013, the Court of Appeals in Milan confirmed the four-year prison sentence, and extended the public office ban to five years. On 1 August 2013, the Court of Cassation (final appeal) confirmed the sentence of 4 years, of which the last three years are automatically pardoned. The decision marked the first time that Berlusconi received a definitive sentence, despite being on trial nearly 30 times during the last 25 years. In regards of calculating the exact length of the public office ban, the Court of Cassation asked the lower court to re-judge this, because of prosecutors having presented new legal arguments for the ban to be reduced from five to three years. However, a new anti-corruption law passed in late 2012, referred to as the Severino law, will bar Berlusconi from seeking elective office for six years, independently of the court's final ruling regarding the length of the public office ban. The ramification of his public office ban is that it makes him ineligible to serve any public office, but technically he will still be allowed as a non-candidate to continue leading his party and centre-right coalition in election campaigns. A similar situation occurred in March 2013, when the leader of the Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, convicted over a road accident in 1988, led his party's 2013 election campaign despite not being able to run for public office because of a rule established within his movement.
On 10 September, at the second day of the Senate deliberations, the Democratic Party stated they intended to vote down all three PDL submitted motions to delay the Senate deliberations, and accused PDL of obstructing the work of the Senate committee by playing delaying tactics. Renato Brunetta, floor leader of the PDL in the lower house, responded by saying "If the Democratic Party and Grillo's people decide this evening to vote against the proposals, the Democratic Party will bring down the Letta government". The meeting at the second day ended with PDL agreeing to drop their series of technical objections to try to halt the hearings, on the agreement that each of the committee members could speak at greater length in a broad discussion on the merits of the case. On 18 September, Berlusconi made a national televised speech, in which he pledged to stay as party leader of a revived Forza Italia, no matter if the Senate would end up deciding to expel him or not. On 25 September, the PDL parliamentary group agreed on a resolution to threaten the Senate, that if Berlusconi would be expelled, then all PDL parliamentarians would immediately "reflect on and decide according to his or her conscience", whether or not to show sympathy with Berlusconi by resigning their own seats in the Senate. The Senate Committee nevertheless voted 15:8 in support for a recommendation to expel Berlusconi on 4 October, and ten days later submitted a final report about the case, so that it can be scheduled for a final vote in the full Senate by early November. The Rules of Procedure Committee decided at its meeting on 30 October, by the votes 7:6, that Berlusconi's expulsion vote shall not be conducted as a secret vote but as an open public vote. On 27 November 2013, the Senate voted 192:113 for enforcement of Berlusconi's immediate expulsion and a six-year ban from serving any legislative office.
Berlusconi was expected to start serving his four-year prison sentence (reduced to one year), either under house arrest or doing unpaid social community service, in mid-October 2013. In mid-October he informed the court that he preferred to serve the sentence by doing community service. Because of bureaucracy in the legal court system, it was however expected his one-year-long full-time community service would only start in around April 2014. On 19 October, the Milan appeal court ruled that Berlusconi's public office ban should be reduced from five to two years; which was later also confirmed by the Court of Cassation. The court imposed this public office ban, however this did not change the fact that Berlusconi according to the Severino law received a ban preventing him from running as a candidate in legislative elections for a prolonged six-year period, which effectively superseded the shorter court imposed public office ban. Berlusconi began his community service at a Catholic care home centre on 9 May 2014, where he is required to work four hours a week for a year with elderly dementia patients.
Berlusconi has been involved in many controversies and over 20 court cases during his political career, including being sentenced to four years imprisonment and a five-year ban from public office by the Court of Appeals for €7M tax evasion (and €280M slush fund) on 8 May 2013, confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 1 August 2013. Due to a general pardon, his imprisonment was reduced to one year, which due to his age can be served either as a house arrest at his private residence or as community service.
On 24 June 2013, Berlusconi was found guilty of paying an underage prostitute for sex, and of abusing his powers in an ensuing cover up. He was sentenced to seven years in jail, and banned from public office for life. He was acquitted from the sex charges by the Italy appeals court on Friday, 18 July 2014.
In 2013, the European Parliament asked Italy to modify the Bossi-Fini law because it was too restrictive and severe.
On 27 January 2013, on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, Berlusconi said the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, except for passing anti-Jewish laws in 1938, only had done "good things" for Italy; and also said Mussolini from a strategic point of view did the right thing in siding with Adolf Hitler during World War II, because Hitler at the point of time when the alliance was made had appeared to be winning the war.
On 28 May 2013, Berlusconi and his entourage launched an online initiative which consisted in the recruitment of volunteers, who are available to defend Berlusconi from the convictions of Milan's prosecutors, who are dealing with his trials, and who, Berlusconi often accused of being communists and anti-democratic.
The fast-track trial opened on 6 April and was adjourned until 31 May. El Mahroug's lawyer said that Mahroug would not be attaching herself to the case as a civil complainant and denies that she ever made herself available for money. Another alleged victim, Giorgia Iafrate, also decided not to be a party to the case. In January 2013, judges rejected an application from Berlusconi's lawyers to have the trial adjourned so that it would not interfere with Italy's 2013 general election in which Berlusconi participated.
On 24 June 2013, Berlusconi was found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of abusing 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. In the trial, the prosecution claimed that Berlusconi had paid over 4.5 million euros in total for El Mahroug's services. Berlusconi appealed the sentence and his conviction was quashed a year later, on 18 July 2014.
Austerity mesures were passed, raising €59.8 billion from spending cuts and tax raises, including freezing public-sector salaries until 2014 and gradually increasing the retirement age for women in the private sector from 60 in 2014 to 65 in 2026. The resignation also came at a difficult time for Berlusconi, as he was involved in numerous trials for corruption, fraud and sex offences. He was often found guilty in lower courts but used loopholes in Italy's legal system to evade incarceration.
Berlusconi had a warm relationship with Vladimir Putin. In September 2014, Berlusconi accused the United States, NATO and EU of "a ridiculously and irresponsibly sanctioning approach to the Russian Federation, which cannot but defend Ukrainian citizens of Russian origin that it considers brothers".
On 5 August 2016, Fininvest announced the signing of a preliminary agreement to sell all of their shares of A.C. Milan to Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co.Ltd. The deal was scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2016. On 13 April 2017, Berlusconi sold A.C. Milan to Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux for a total of €830 million after a 31-year reign.
In April 2016 the Panama Papers scandal broke out; it was a leaked set of 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, including the identities of shareholders and directors of the companies. The documents show how wealthy individuals, including public officials, hid their assets from public scrutiny. Berlusconi was cited in the list, along with his long-time partner at A.C. Milan, Adriano Galliani.
On 7 June 2016, after the campaign for the local elections, Berlusconi was hospitalized to the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan because of heart problems. After two days, on 9 June, his personal doctor Alberto Zangrillo announced that the stroke could have killed him and he must have a heart surgery to replace a defective aortic valve.
In April 2017, Berlusconi appeared in a video promoting a vegetarian Easter campaign. Berlusconi was shown cuddling lambs he had adopted to save from slaughtering for the traditional Easter Sunday feast. He has neither confirmed nor denied whether he himself is a vegetarian, however.
In March 2017 he expressed his intention to run once again as centre-right candidate for the premiership, even if he is banned from public office until 2019; the 2018 general election was his seventh one as the centre-right frontunner. However, the general election resulted in the Lega Nord winning more seats than Forza Italia, and no electoral coalition winning an outright majority.
In a piece written for Slate and published in April 2017, Lorenzo Newman noted the similarities in the career trajectories between the two men - "Both grew their fortunes on allegedly mafia-linked real-estate developments, transitioned into successful careers as media moguls, and, against all odds, ascended to the helm of their respective national governments" - but also highlighted their shared tendency to question and undermine established institutions such as the judiciary and the press, the way that neither of them had been accepted by their countries' respective establishments despite their wealth, and how they channelled the resulting resentment into a populist form of politics by "portraying themselves as everymen, if not in wealth, then in language, tone (and) aspirations". He also pointed out other commonalities, such as responding to concerns about conflicts of interest by delegating responsibility for running their businesses to family members.
As of 2017, Berlusconi's appeal regarding his six-year public office ban was pending before the European Court of Human Rights.
In January 2019, Berlusconi expressed his intention to run for candidacy in the 2019 European Parliament election in Italy. In the election, Forza Italia received only 8.8% of votes, the worst result in its history. Berlusconi was elected in the Parliament, becoming the oldest member of the assembly.
On 1 March 2019, the Moroccan model Imane Fadil, who was one of the main witnesses in the process, died in strange circumstances, allegedly killed by radioactive poisoning.
In 2020, Wondery released a podcast about Berlusconi's rise and fall entitled "Bunga Bunga." The host was comedienne Whitney Cummings.
On 2 September 2020, amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Berlusconi tested positive for COVID-19. He had had contact with businessman Flavio Briatore, who had been hospitalized after contracting the virus, and with his daughter Barbara and his son Luigi, who had also tested positive. The following day, Berlusconi announced he was well and continuing to work; on the next day, 3 September, he was admitted to the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan with bilateral pneumonia. Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of intensive care at San Raffaele Hospital, said on 11 September 2020 that Berlusconi was admitted with a very high and dangerous viral load, but that he was improving and his response to the disease had been "optimal".
Currently, Silvio Berlusconi is 86 years, 2 months and 4 days old. Silvio Berlusconi will celebrate 87th birthday on a Friday 29th of September 2023.
Find out about Silvio Berlusconi birthday activities in timeline view here.