Italy’s Berlusconi diagnosed with leukemia, doctors say


ROME — Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s controversial former leader who served as prime minister three times, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the hospital where he is being treated in the intensive care unit said Thursday. 

The 86-year-old billionaire media tycoon who has had repeated bouts of ill health in recent years is being treated in a cardiac unit at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said he was “currently in intensive care where (he) is being treated for a lung infection.”  

Signed by two doctors, Alberto Zangrillo and Fabio Ciceri, the statement added that the “infection is due to a chronic hematological condition he has been suffering from for a while: chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.”

Berlusconi, who made his fortune through his television channels before entering politics, had heart surgery in 2016 and has had prostate cancer. He has been repeatedly hospitalized over the past couple of years after contracting Covid-19 in 2020.

Berlusconi, who sits in the Senate, or upper house, of the Italian Parliament, has stirred controversy in recent months with his criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, putting him at odds with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition government.

His Forza Italia party is part of the government, although he does not have a role in government. He is also a member of the European Parliament.

However, in recent months Forza Italia has slumped in the polls to a fraction of what it enjoyed years ago, when voters helped to repeatedly propel him into the premiership. 

When he left the hospital at the end of March, Berlusconi said he was “ready and determined to commit myself as I’ve always done to the country I love,” according to The Associated Press.

Berlusconi gained worldwide notoriety as the host of so-called bunga bunga parties, private dinners that allegedly led to sexy shows performed by young and attractive guests.

His latest hospital stay comes almost two months after he was found not guilty of bribing witnesses to lie about the parties. He had been accused of paying young showgirls and others to give false testimony about the allegedly raunchy events.

The other 28 defendants — among them Moroccan dancer Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby — were also acquitted.

El Mahroug had featured in an earlier case that saw Berlusconi found guilty of soliciting sex from an underage prostitute. He went on to successfully appeal the conviction.

Both Berlusconi and El Mahroug denied they had sex and she denied ever having been a prostitute.

Claudio Lavanga reported from Rome, and Henry Austin from London.


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