Photo: reproduction

At the age of 86, former Prime Minister and Italian tycoon Silvio Berlusconi died on Monday (12). Owner of three terms as prime minister, the far-right leader had been hospitalized since last Friday to treat leukemia at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.

Berlusconi was diagnosed with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia in April, when he was hospitalized for 45 days. The last few years have not been easy for the former AC Milan owner’s health. He underwent heart surgery (2016), intestinal obstruction (2019), lung infections (2020) and urinary infections (2022). In 1997, he removed a prostate tumor in 1997.

Currently, Berlusconi was a senator and his family owned an empire of over US$6.9 billion (R$33.7 billion).

Italy’s current prime minister, the far-right Giorgia Meloni, said her ally was one of “the most influential men in history”. “Silvio Berlusconi was above all a fighter, he was a man who was never afraid to defend his convictions, and it was precisely this courage and determination that made him one of the most influential men in the history of Italy and allowed him to provoke upheavals in the world of politics, of communication and business”, said the head of government.

the entrepreneurial beginning

Owner of numerous nicknames, the Cavaliere (gentleman) emerged in Italian society as a businessman. A son of the Milanese middle class, Berlusconi became famous in the 1960s as an entrepreneur with “a natural charm”.

In 1962, from selling vacuum cleaners, the Italian founded a construction company that created the Milan 2 urban complex. Shrouded in corruption, the condominium on the outskirts of Milan enriched Berlusconi like never before after selling 3,500 apartments.

The first major undertaking by Sivlio Berlusconi’s construction company, Milano 2 Photo: Reproduction

Enricado, in 1973, the entrepreneur founded Telemilano, a cable TV channel initially created to broadcast in Milan 2 apartments. At the time, the audio-visual transmission laws in Italy were very strict and the channels broadcast almost exclusively Italian and with themes considered monotonous by the population.

Quickly and with a lot of bribes, the Italian bought two more channels and started broadcasting American programs of cheap entertainment. The popularization of Berlusconi’s stations had a gigantic ascendancy.

In 1978, he founded the company Fininvest, today chaired by his eldest son, Marina Berlusconi, which still controls the family business: TV stations in Italy and other European countries, publisher of books and periodicals, as well as the Monza soccer club, which competes in the first division of the Italian Championship.

In the midst of the Clean Hands operation, an outsider appears

In 1994, already known as the extravagant tycoon who rose in life, Silvio Berlusconi enters Italian politics. The catalyst for this process was the Clean Hands Operation, a corruption scandal that involved public agents and businessmen.

Anti-political sentiment, fueled by the fall of the Soviet Union, decimated Italy’s three major parties in the 20th century – the Christian Democrats, the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party.

It was in the wake of this process that the eccentric businessman, who had revolutionized the media and owner of the most popular club in Italy, AC Milan, put himself forward to run for the post of Prime Minister of the country, that same year.

Italian politics was going through the hecatomb of the Mãos Limpas, while the businessman sold himself as a modern figure and more similar to the people, for having a less refined speech than the traditional politicians.

Using jingles like “Force my Italy”, whose composer he was himself, Berlusconi promised citizens the fantasy of the liberal world: free enterprise, free market, a million new jobs, lower taxes and the reduction of the State.

Berlusconi is elected Italian Prime Minister in 1994 Photo: Reproduction

In March 1994, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party won the legislative elections and was asked to form a new coalition government with its right-wing and extreme-right allies, Umberto Bossi’s Northern League and the Alliance Nacional, by Gianfranco Fini, respectively.

Berlusconi inaugurated the figure of the populist politician who comes to power with an anti-system discourse.

That year, Berlusconi allowed the Italian Social Movement (MSI) to form the cabinet for the first time since the fall of Benito Mussolini. The MSI was a political party formed in the post-war period by members of Italian fascism. Berlusconi’s movement broke the anti-fascist shield that until then was a consensus in all parties in the country.

Later, in 2008, it was he who appointed the current Prime Minister of Italy, the ultra-rightist Giorgia Meloni, to the Youth portfolio. At the time, aged 31, Meloni became the youngest minister of the republican period.

Corruption and sexual scandals, as well as a lot of racism

Silvio Berlusconi’s trajectory is surrounded by cases of corruption, sexual scandals and racist phrases. In all, he faced 35 criminal prosecutions, but obtained only one final conviction.

His conviction took place in August 2013. The four-year prison sentence for tax fraud — three of which were abolished by an amnesty — was upheld by the Court of Cassation. He served the sentence the following year in the form of community service.

In 2018, campaigning for general elections, the then leader of Forza Italia declared that he intended to deport 600,000 immigrants if he won the election. Europe is experiencing an unprecedented immigration crisis due to the interference of the United States and the European Union in the African and Asian continent.

Berlusconi is convicted in 2013, but is serving his sentence at home Photo: Reproduction

Check out the cases involving the former Italian prime minister below:

SME case (1992-1994): During this period, Berlusconi was accused of involvement in a corruption scheme related to Banco Ambrosiano, which went bankrupt in 1982.

Fininvest case (1995-1998): Berlusconi was investigated for alleged illegal practices related to his media company, Fininvest. The charges included corruption, tax evasion and money laundering.

Mediatrade case (2005-2007): Berlusconi has faced allegations of bribery in relation to the sale of film rights to the Mediaset studio, which belongs to his media company. The case involved Italian businessman Frank Agrama.

Rubygate case (2010-2014): Berlusconi was accused of abuse of power and prostitution of minors in that case. He allegedly had sexual relations with a young Moroccan woman named Karima El Mahroug, also known as “Ruby”, when she was a minor.

Unipol case (2011): Berlusconi was accused of leaking confidential information to insurance company Unipol for personal gain. The charges included abuse of power and violation of state secrecy.

Balotelli case (2018): “For me, a woman who goes out with a black man makes me ashamed,” said Berlusconi, in a video secretly made by Marysthell Polanco, and published in the Ruby proceedings.

Far-right electioneering

Berlusconi also collects involvement and political articulations with the Italian extreme right. As mentioned, in 1994, the then prime minister replaced Mussolini’s former companions in politics, when he embraced the MSI. The tycoon’s first coalition was precisely with the right and the extreme right, led by figures like Umberto Bossi and Gianfranco Fini.

Berlusconi and the fascist prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, in October 2022 Photo: Reproduction

In 2022, he articulated with the League, the far-right party of Matteo Salvini, to overthrow the 5 Star Movement. Just last year, surfing the anti-immigration wave, Forza Italia abandoned historical convictions of the acronym, such as the defense of the European Union.

In September 2022, already elected Senator of Italy (after a period prevented by Justice from running for public office), Berlusconi helped form the coalition of the current far-right government of Giorgia Meloni.


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