Silvio Berlusconi Explained

Silvio Berlusconi
Office:Prime Minister of Italy
President:Giorgio Napolitano
Term Start:8 May 2008
Term End:16 November 2011
Predecessor:Romano Prodi
Successor:Mario Monti
President1:Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Giorgio Napolitano
Deputy1:Giulio Tremonti
Gianfranco Fini
Marco Follini
Term Start1:11 June 2001
Term End1:17 May 2006
Predecessor1:Giuliano Amato
Successor1:Romano Prodi
President2:Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Deputy2:Giuseppe Tatarella
Roberto Maroni
Term Start2:10 May 1994
Term End2:17 January 1995
Predecessor2:Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Successor2:Lamberto Dini
Birth Date:29 September 1936
Birth Place:Milan, Italy
Party:Forza Italia (1994–2008)
The People of Freedom (2009–present)
Spouse:Carla Dall'Oglio (1965–1985, Divorced)
Veronica Lario (1990–2010, Divorced)
Children:Marina
Pier Silvio
Barbara
Eleonora
Luigi
Alma Mater:University of Milan

Silvio Berlusconi (; born 29 September 1936), also known as Il Cavaliere (literally, The Knight) – from knighthood to the Order of Merit for Labour which he received in 1977[1] – is an Italian politician and businessman who served three terms as Prime Minister of Italy, from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. Berlusconi is also the controlling shareholder of Mediaset and owner of A.C. Milan.

Berlusconi is the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy, and third longest-serving since Italy's unification, after Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Giolitti, holding three separate terms. Technically, he has been sworn in four times because after a cabinet reshuffle, as happened with Berlusconi in 2005, the new ministry is sworn in and subjected to a vote of confidence. He is the leader of the People of Freedom political movement, a centre-right party he founded in 2009. From November 2009 to November 2011, he was the most senior leader of the G8 countries. In 2011, Forbes magazine ranked him as the 118th richest man in the world with a net worth of US$6.2 billion.[2]

Berlusconi's political rise was rapid and surrounded by some controversy. He was elected as a Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and appointed as Prime Minister following the March 1994 parliamentary elections, when Forza Italia gained a relative majority a mere three months after having been officially launched. However, his cabinet collapsed after nine months, due to internal disagreements in his coalition. 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 was criticised for his dominance over the Italian media whilst he held political office.[3] His broadcasting company Mediaset is the largest in the country and one of the biggest in Europe, Berlusconi never fulfilled his election promises to sell off his assets in the company to avoid a conflict of interest. His leadership was also undermined by sex scandals.[4] After losing his majority in parliament amid growing fiscal problems related to the European debt crisis, Berlusconi officially resigned as Prime Minister on 16 November 2011.[5]

Family background and personal life

Berlusconi was born in Milan in 1936. He was raised there in a middle-class family.[6] 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), both entrepreneurs.

After completing his secondary school education at a Salesian college, he studied law at the Università Statale in Milan, graduating (with honor) 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 a 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 AC 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. Berlusconi also owns the Serie A Club AC Milan.

In 1965, he married Carla Elvira Dall'Oglio, and they had two children: Maria Elvira, better known as Marina (born 1966), and Pier Silvio (b. 1969). By 1980, Berlusconi had established a relationship with the actress Veronica Lario (born Miriam Bartolini), with whom he subsequently had three children: Barbara (b. 1984), Eleonora (b. 1986) and Luigi (b. 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 former Prime Minister and leader of the Italian Socialist Party Bettino Craxi. In May 2009, Lario announced that she was to file for divorce.

Business career

Milano Due

Berlusconi's business career began in construction early in the 1960s. After a couple of successful projects, in the late 1960s he carried out the construction of Milano Due, a huge residential project of about 10,500 apartments, which he eventually built in Segrate, an eastern suburb of Milan.

Telemilano

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. After buying two further channels, Berlusconi relocated the station to central Milan in 1977 and began broadcasting over the airwaves.

Fininvest

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 liras (58.3 million). The funding sources are still unknown because of the complex system of holding companies that makes them impossible to trace, 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 on 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.

Berlusconi was assisted in his successful effort to create the first and only Italian commercial TV empire 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.[7] This was because, on 16 October 1984, judges in Turin, Pescara and Rome, enforcing a law which previously restricted nationwide broadcasting to RAI, had ordered these private networks to cease transmitting.

After some 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 therefore allowed, for instance, 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.

In 1995, Berlusconi sold a portion of his media holdings, first to the German media group Kirch Group (now bankrupted) and then by public offer. In 1999 Berlusconi expanded his media interests by forming a partnership with Kirch called the Epsilon MediaGroup.

On 9 July, a Milan court ordered Fininvest to pay 560 million euros in damages to Compagnie Industriali Riunite in a long-running legal dispute.[8]

Political career

See main article: Political career of Silvio Berlusconi and Policies of Silvio Berlusconi. As he founded his Forza Italia party and entered politics, Berlusconi expressed his support for "freedom, the individual, family, enterprise, Italian tradition, Christian tradition and love for weaker people"[9] and his intention to combat fiscal, judicial and bureaucratic oppression of Italians. The political family of the European People's Party was joined by Forza Italia in 1999 and by the People of Freedom in 2009. Some allies of Berlusconi, especially the Lega Nord, push for controls on immigration. Berlusconi himself has shown some reluctance to pursue such policies as strongly as his allies might like. A number of measures have been taken, with mixed results. The government, after introducing a controversial immigration law (the "Bossi-Fini" law, from the names of the Lega Nord and National Alliance leaders, as first authors of the text) is seeking the cooperation of European and other Mediterranean countries in reducing the large number of immigrants trying to reach Italian coasts on old and overloaded ferries and fishing boats, risking (and, often, losing) their lives.

On 8 November 2011, after losing his majority and public support, Berlusconi announced he would resign once parliament passed economic reforms. Many believed that the problems and doubts over Berlusconi's leadership and his coalition were one of the factors that contributed to market anxieties over an imminent Italian financial disaster, which could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the 17-nation eurozone and the world economy. 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. Following Berlusconi's resignation, Mario Monti formed a new government that would remain in office until the next scheduled elections in 2013.[10] [11] On 16 November, Monti announced that he had formed a Cabinet and was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy, also appointing himself as Minister of Economy and Finance.[12]

Legal problems

See main article: Trials and allegations involving Silvio Berlusconi.

Allegations

Silvio Berlusconi has an extensive record of criminal allegations, including mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges.Berlusconi has been tried in Italian courts in several cases. In three of these cases accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi's parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities. In all of them, but one, either he was acquitted by a court of first instance or on appeal, or charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. Therefore he has not been sentenced up to now, despite having been found guilty of providing false testimony in 1990.[13] [14] [15] [16] [17] Berlusconi claimed that "this is a manifest judicial persecution, against which I am proud to resist, and the fact that my resistance and sacrifice will give the Italians a more fair and efficient judicial system makes me even more proud", and added that "789 prosecutors and magistrates took an interest in the politician Berlusconi from 1994 to 2006 with the aim of subverting the votes of the Italian people" citing statistics that he said have constituted a "calvary including 577 visits by police, 2,500 court hearings and 174 million euros in lawyers' bills paid by me". Berlusconi has always been able to afford top lawyers, for example Nicolas Sarkozy was one of his French top advocates. Some of his former prosecutors later joined the parliamentary opposition. Some of his attorneys are also members of parliament.

False testimony

In 1981, a scandal arose after the police discovery of Licio Gelli's secret quasi-Masonic lodge Propaganda 2 (P2), which aimed to change the Italian political system to a more authoritarian regime. The list of people involved in P2 included members of the secret services and some prominent characters from political arena, business, military and media. Silvio Berlusconi, who was then just starting to gain popularity as the founder and owner of "Canale 5" TV channel, was listed as a member of P2.[18] [19] The P2 lodge was dissolved by the Italian Parliament in December 1981 and a law was passed declaring similar organisations illegal, but no specific crimes were alleged against individual members of the P2 lodge. While the Italian Constitution had forbidden secret associations since 1948, no penal law provision had ever been passed by Parliament to enact that, and in the Italian legal system an action cannot be a crime if no law declaring that action a crime was in force when the action was committed. Thus, members of the P2 were members of anti-Constitutional and yet not illegal per se association.

Berlusconi later (in 1989) sued three journalists for libel for writing articles hinting at his involvement in financial crimes. In court, he declared that he had joined the P2 lodge "only for a very short time before the scandal broke" and "he had not even paid the entry fee". Such statements conflicted with the findings of the parliamentary inquiry commission appointed to investigate the lodge's activity, with material evidence, and even with previous testimony of Berlusconi, all of which proved that he had actually been a member of P2 since 1978 and had indeed paid 100,000 Italian liras (approximately equivalent to 300 euros today) as an entry fee.In 1990 the court of appeal of Venice found Berlusconi guilty of false testimony in front of the Court of Verona, however the court could not pass sentence as the offense had been pardoned by an amnesty passed in 1989.

Some political commentators claim that Berlusconi's electoral programme followed the P2 plan.[20]

Jowell controversy/David Mills bribery case

See main article: Tessa Jowell financial allegations. David Mills, lawyer husband of the former British cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, acted for Berlusconi in the early 1990s, and was later accused by Italian prosecutors of money laundering and of accepting a gift from Berlusconi in return for witness evidence favourable to Berlusconi given in court. Mills claimed that the money in question came not from Berlusconi but from another client. Tessa Jowell then announced her separation from Mills, which some of the UK media suggested was an attempt to distance herself from a potential scandal. She also denied having discussed the money with her husband; Private Eye magazine published a satirical front cover of Jowell with a speech bubble stating: "I have never met my husband". In December 2010, information obtained by the Wikileaks website revealed Mr Berlusconi had become very fond of Ms Jowell, referring to her in private company as 'piccolo puntaspilli' (the little pincushion).

On 17 February 2009, Mills was found guilty of accepting a bribe of about 400,000 pounds sterling, allegedly from Silvio Berlusconi, and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. On 25 February 2010, the Court of Cassation gave a verdict of not guilty because the statute of limitations expired.[21] The supreme court judges ruled that he received the money in 1999, and not 2000 as prosecutors had previously argued. He was ordered to pay €250,000 compensation to the office of the Italian prime minister for "damaging its reputation".

Soliciting minors for sex

See main article: Silvio Berlusconi underage prostitution charges. In February 2011, Berlusconi was charged with having sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug between February and May 2010 when she was under the age of 18.[22] [23] 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 the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak).[22]

Abuse of office

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.[24] [25] 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.[24] 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.[25] On 7 February 2012, at an initial court hearing, Berlusconi denied he had listened to the tapes and ordered their publication.[25]

Personal fortune

In 2010, Forbes magazine reported that Berlusconi was Italy's third richest man, with a net worth of $9 billion. He holds significant assets in television, newspapers, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, insurance, and sport. Berlusconi's main company, Mediaset, comprises three national television channels covering half of the national television sector; and Publitalia, 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 wing 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 wife, Veronica Lario. After Lario sold some of her ownership in 2010, Paolo Berlusconi acquired a majority interest in the newspaper. Berlusconi is also the founder and major shareholder of Fininvest, which is among the largest private companies in Italy[26] and 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 is also the owner of the football club A.C. Milan which along with Boca Juniors has won the most FIFA recognized international club titles in the world. After his resignation as prime minister of Italy, he announced that he will return as president of A.C. Milan in 2012.[27]

See also

Documentaries

Feature films

Further reading

External links

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Notes and References

  1. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/49/45220608.pdf The Rt. Hon. Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister
  2. Web site: Forbes Silvio Berlusconi profile page. 11 March 2011. Forbes. 14 November 2011.
  3. Web site: Italians find voice and punish Silvio Berlusconi. BBC. 13 June 2011. 8 November 2011.
  4. Web site: Opponents tell Berlusconi to quit over sex scandal. MSNBC. 18 September 2011. 1 November 2011.
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15708729 Italy crisis: Silvio Berlusconi resigns as PM
  6. Willey, David (2011). The secret of Silvio Berlusconi's success, BBC News website, bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  7. Web site: Berlusconi- tv. Un impero nato per decreto-Craxi. Italian. l'Unità.
  8. Web site: Zampano. Giada. Court Fines Berlusconi's Fininvest - WSJ.com. Online.wsj.com. 11 July 2011. 10 September 2011.
  9. Web site: Forza Italia's Chart of Values. http://web.archive.org/web/20040527120603/http://www.forza-italia.it/notizie/int_2816.htm. 27 May 2004.
  10. News: Incarico a Monti: "Occorre crescita ed equità"|. 12 November 2011. La Repubblica. 12 November 2011.
  11. News: Facing Crisis, Technocrats Take Charge in Italy. 16 November 2011. New York Times. 16 November 2011.
  12. Web site: Mario Monti appoints himself economy minister as he unveils Italy government. 16 November 2011. Daily Telegraph. 16 November 2011.
  13. Web site: Berlusconi-Fini, c'è l'accordo nel Pdl sui tempi dei processi. Lastampa.it. 11 November 2009. 2 March 2010. Italian.
  14. Web site: Il processo breve arriva al Senato e per i giudici parte la corsa contro il tempo. Loccidentale.it. 22 February 1999. 2 March 2010. Italian. Dolasilla.
  15. Web site: "Estinti" Mediaset e Mills ma non Mediatrade-Rti. Ilsole24ore.com. 11 November 2009. 2 March 2010. Italian. Donatella. Stasio.
  16. Web site: GIUSTIZIA: DI PIETRO, SPIACE FINI SI PRESTI A GIOCO. Repubblica.it. 10 November 2009. 2 March 2010. Italian.
  17. Web site: Berlusconi incensurato? Sì, ma con 7 prescrizioni e 2 amnistie. Ilsalvagente.it. 10 November 2009. 2 March 2010. Italian. Franco. Pennello.
  18. Web site: The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed. Vanity Fair. July 2006.
  19. Proceedings of the parliamentary inquiry commission headed by Tina Anselmi
  20. Web site: Bettazzi: 'Berlusconi Realizza Il Piano Di Rinascita Della P2'. Italian. la Repubblica. 10 January 1995.
  21. Web site: Mills decision a boost for Berlusconi – The Irish Times – Sat, Feb 27, 2010. The Irish Times. 27 February 2010. 22 August 2010.
  22. Hooper, John (15 February 2011)."Silvio Berlusconi to face trial in underage sex case". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  23. Web site: Silvio Berlusconi sent for trial accused of paying for sex with teenager. The Guardian. 15 February 2011. 13 February 2012.
  24. News: Berlusconi faces another court case. The Financial Times. 7 February 2012. February 10, 2012. Sanderson, Rachel. Milan.
  25. News: Silvio Berlusconi faces fourth trial on wiretap charges. BBC News. 7 February 2012. February 10, 2012.
  26. http://www.mbres.it/sites/default/files/resources/download_it/ps_1.pdf
  27. "Berlusconi back to AC Milan">