Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been diagnosed with leukaemia, according to reports in an Italian newspaper.

The 86-year-old is being treated in a cardiac unit in Milan’s San Raffaele hospital.

Mr Berlusconi’s spokesperson, Paolo Russo, did not deny the diagnosis – first reported in the Corriere della Sera daily – when asked.

He said he was not “authorised to give health info but the Corriere della Sera is the most authoritative Italian newspaper”, CNN reported.

Reuters has also reported that “a source close to the matter” has confirmed the leukaemia diagnosis.

The media tycoon and billionaire served four stints as Italy’s prime minister, most recently between 2008 and 2011, after which he was forced to step down amid a bribery and sex scandal.

Mr Berlusconi was accused of bribing 24 people, mostly young female guests at his “bunga bunga” parties in a previous trial where he was charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer.

However, he was acquitted last month and despite having been involved in 35 criminal court cases over the years, has just one conviction against his name – for tax fraud, false accounting and embezzlement.

He returned to frontline politics last September, when he won a seat in Italy’s senate, representing the northern municipality of Monza.

A long-time ally of Mr Berlusconi, Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, told reporters in Brussels that the former prime minister was in a stable condition in hospital.

He said Mr Berlusconi had survived a series of health problems, adding, “he is our political leader and of course he never gives up”.

The former prime minister built Italy’s biggest commercial TV network and gained an international profile as owner of AC Milan before entering politics in 1994.

He has faced health difficulties in recent years, including heart surgery in 2016, prostate cancer, and needing repeat admissions to hospital following a Covid-19 diagnosis in 2020.

With additional reporting from agencies.

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