He was prime minister of Italy between 1993 and 1994 and again between 2001 and 2006. He has been reelected by a substantial majority in April 2008 after the fall of the centre-left coalition government led by Romano Prodi, which lasted a mere 20 months. On 8 November 2011 Berlusconi announced his resignation.
He is a great friend of President Bush and he lauded the US President in the special issue of Time magazine, 100: The World's Most Influential People. Nevertheless, he greatly welcomed Barack Obama saying that he is "young, handsome and tanned" and since then, he has showed a great friendship with the black President. Berlusconi has also declared his friendship with leaders such as Gaddafi (even kissing his hand) and Putin.
His wealth derives from his ownership of the financial conglomerate Fininvest, including Mediaset, which owns several major television channels and newspapers (according to Freedom House, Italy has constantly been "partly free" in regard to freedom of press while Berlusconi was in charge), but he started as a building contractor.
The source of his original wealth is currently disputed: in particular, Berlusconi received several large loans from the Rasini Bank, which was later discovered to be a coverup for the money laundering activity of the mafia, being also linked with the masonic lodge P2 (Berlusconi was also a member of the P2, card n. 1816). Berlusconi has always defended himself saying that money came from his father Luigi, also an employee of the Rasini Bank.
Berlusconi has been accused of having contacts with the mafia: it has been established that he took a mafioso boss, Vittorio Mangano, as his alleged "stableman". Mangano was arrested and sentenced several times while working for Berlusconi and his right-hand, Marcello Dell'Utri, who has been sentenced in Appeal for mafia. Asked about Mangano, both Berlusconi and Dell'Utri answered saying that he was "a hero".
Berlusconi has been the subject of judicial investigations into alleged corruption, judicial corruption, fraud, underage prostitution and accounting irregularities by, what he and others claim is, a group of politicized left-wing judges or "toghe rosse" (red robes). The facts of which Berlusconi has been accused have been all proved, but Berlusconi has never been sentenced thanks to amnesties, self-depenalizations of illicit accounting while he was at power, shortening of the statute of limitations. In May 2009, David Mills, Berlusconi's Lawyer, was convicted of perjury in order to promote Berlusconi's impunity. Berlusconi has been fully acquitted for "not having committed the fact" (full acquittal) only in one case. Italy is one of the few European countries, where the head of government has no immunity. In spite of this, Berlusconi has tried to promulgate several laws establishing his immunity (called "ad personam" laws in Italy), but almost all of them were found to be un-constitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court and therefore canceled. Berlusconi has accused Constitutional judges of being "communist", and has also said that the Italian Constitution - which has been written mostly by moderate Christian Democrats - is also "sovietic".
Berlusconi says to be a conservative and the "defender of the traditional family". It is to be noted, though, that Berlusconi has admitted having sex with many very young prostitutes (Berlusconi is currently 74 years old) such as Karima "Ruby" el-Mahroug in a perverted sexual rite called "bunga-bunga"; he is a known and self-admitted "user" of prostitutes who he lets inside his villas and has divorced from the wife Veronica Lario. Vladimir Putin said of Berlusconi's legal problems in the West, he is "being tried because he lives with women. If he were homosexual, no one would lift a finger against him."
Has been definitively convicted for tax fraud by the Italian supreme court on 1 August 2013, being handed a four-year jail term. Due to age limits and a previous amnesty, he will likely spend only one year either at home arrest or in probation with the social service.
- Marco Travaglio, L'odore dei soldi, The smell of money. A book from the independent journalist Marco Travaglio, later indicted by Berlusconi for slander, and subsequently acquitted.
- The picture of Berlusconi's P2 admission paper can be easily found on the web: 
- Il Corriere della Sera
- La Stampa: Mafia, Dell'Utri sentenced to 7 years
- La Repubblica
- An editorial by Marco Travaglio, hosted on the blog of the Italian popular blogger Beppe Grillo