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Silvio Berlusconi is a three-time prime minister of Italy whose career has been marked by sexual indiscretion, political scandals and multiple trials.
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Born in Milan, Italy, on September 29, 1936, Silvio Berlusconi rose from a middle class background to become one of the wealthiest men in the country. In 1993, Berlusconi founded his own right-wing political party; he went on to become a three-time prime minister. Though he has been dogged by scandal and has been convicted of several crimes, Berlusconi remains a powerful figure in Italy.
"I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."
"I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats ... beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family ... I am making a sacrifice."
"It's better to be fond of beautiful girls than to be gay."
"Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. But they should see it like a weekend of camping."
[About those left homeless after the L'Aquila earthquake.]
"I am forced to enter politics, otherwise they will put me in prison."
"If I, in taking care of everyone's interests, also take care of my own, you can't talk about a conflict of interest."
"If I sleep for three hours, I still have enough energy to make love for another three."
"I am without doubt the person who's been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man."
Silvio Berlusconi was born in Milan, Italy, on September 29, 1936. He sold vacuum cleaners and sang on cruise ships before making a fortune in real estate.
Berlusconi launched a cable channel, Telemilano, in 1974. Although Italian television was heavily regulated, Berlusconi then started a commercial network. He introduced Italy to many foreign TV shows and to veline, showgirls who would strip or dance during game shows and news programs.
Berlusconi now controls three private television networks in Italy. His business empire also includes the AC Milan football (soccer) club, a publishing house and numerous magazines.
In 1993, Berlusconi founded a political party, Forza Italia (Go Italy). He became prime minister in 1994, but the coalition that brought him to power fell apart seven months later. However, Berlusconi was still a popular political figure, especially with people who hoped that his business acumen would help Italy's economy. With promises of tax cuts and job growth, he took over as prime minister again in 2001, staying in power until 2006.
With his renamed political party, Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom), Berlusconi became prime minister for a third time in 2008. He resigned in 2011, after witnessing Italy's debt burdens surge during the eurozone crisis. Berlusconi remains the leader of his party, which gave him the ability to play political kingmaker in 2013, when he supported the coalition government of Enrico Letta.
Berlusconi promoted many of the veline from his television programs to government positions. In 2007, Berlusconi told Mara Carfagna, a velina he had brought into politics, "If I weren't already married, I would marry you right now." Hearing this public declaration, Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, published a letter demanding an apology. After Berlusconi attended an aspiring velina's 18th birthday party in 2009, Lario opted to end the marriage.
Another Berlusconi scandal was the revelation about his "bunga bunga" sex parties. At these parties, women—often wearing costumes—danced and disrobed for Berlusconi and his guests. Berlusconi has stated that the gatherings were nothing more than dinner parties.
Accusations of criminal misbehavior have followed Berlusconi since his first days in office. He has been charged with embezzlement, tax fraud and bribery. Being in power helped Berlusconi avoid some charges—he passed one law that granted the prime minister immunity while in office (the law was later struck down). Berlusconi was also able to fight other accusations until the statute of limitations ran out.
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