Cosa Nostra's protection "was not free", the court said, adding that the media magnate was a victim of extortion.
"Berlusconi handed over conspicuous sums of money to the Mafia," the supreme Court of Cassation said in a 146-page document explaining its decision last month to quash a trial against Marcello Dell'Utri, a Sicilian who worked for Berlusconi in those years.
In the 1970s, Italian criminal organizations routinely kidnapped wealthy people or their children, often in the wealthy north of the country, and held them for ransom.
The most notorious example was John Paul Getty III, the grandson of oil baron John Paul Getty Senior, who was taken from central Rome and held for 5 months by the Calabrian mob in 1973. Getty's ear was cut off and mailed to an Italian newspaper to push the family into paying a ransom.