Silvio Berlusconi, who has served as Italian prime minister four times, was being treated in intensive care in a cardiac unit at Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital after reportedly suffering breathing problems.
The 86-year-old billionaire media tycoon has suffered repeated bouts of ill-health in recent years and came out of the hospital just last week.
“He has been admitted to intensive care because a problem caused by an infection has not been resolved but he is speaking,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, a long-time ally of Berlusconi, told reporters in Brussels.
Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party is part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition although he does not have a role in government.
Berlusconi made his fortune through his commercial television channels and gained an international profile as owner of European soccer champions AC Milan before entering politics in 1994 when the previous political class was brought down by a corruption scandal.
His health has deteriorated, and he had heart surgery in 2016 and has also had prostate cancer. He has been repeatedly admitted to hospital over the past couple of years after contracting COVID-19 in 2020.
Italian media reports said Berlusconi was taken to hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties.
Three sources from Forza Italia said he was in intensive care, and one of them confirmed reports that he was being treated in a cardiac unit. Another of the sources said the situation was “under control.”
San Raffaele Hospital did not respond to a request for comment. A statement on Berlusconi’s condition was expected to be made on Wednesday evening.
Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister for the last time in 2011 as Italy came close to a Greek-style debt crisis and was weighed down by his own scandals, including his notorious “bunga bunga” parties.
He was returned to the Senate (upper house) of the Italian parliament after a general election last September.
Berlusconi has stirred controversy in recent months with his criticism of Ukraine’s President Volodymir Zelenskyy, putting him at odds with Meloni.
An Italian court acquitted Berlusconi in February over allegations of paying witnesses to lie in an underage prostitution case that has dogged the former prime minister for more than a decade.
Berlusconi was accused of bribing 24 people, mostly young, female guests at his so-called bunga bunga parties, in a previous trial where he was charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer.
Berlusconi’s Fininvest family holding group retains control of the MediaForEurope television business, and its shares rose on Wednesday on speculation about potential mergers and acquisition activity in a post-Berlusconi era.