Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to Stand Trial for Paying Underage Girl for Sex
Embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered to stand trial in April on charges of paying an underage girl for sex and for abusing his power to free her from police custody, Reuters reports. The scandal known as “Rubygate” that has captivated Italians is also threatening to be the resilient leader’s undoing. Judge Cristina di Censo handed down the indictment against Berlusconi earlier today; an all-female panel of three judges will hear his case, which is set to begin on April 6.
The charges against the 74-year-old Prime Minister revolve around his relationship with a 17-year-old runaway Moroccan belly dancer named Karima el Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby the Heartstealer) by the Italian press. El Mahroug told magistrates she attended lavish dinner parties at Berlusconi’s palatial estate near Milan but that she did not have sexual relations with the Prime Minister.
But prosecutors point to some damning (yet circumstantial) evidence to the contrary, like mobile phone records that show she visited one of Berlusconi’s villas eight times last year, once leaving early in the morning. The Prime Minister also allegedly gave el Mahroug €7,000 ($9,445) and used his position to get her out of jail when she was arrested for stealing an expensive bracelet from a friend. For the former, he is charged with paying an underage girl for sex. For the latter, he stands accused of unlawful abuse of power.
The parties at Berlusconi’s home were allegedly much raunchier than just dinner gatherings. Dubbed “bunga bunga parties,” they were allegedly wild orgies in which hired prostitutes engaged in sex games with the Prime Minister. Barely-dressed girls, with some in erotic costumes, frolicked with Berlusconi, who would often fondle their genitals. As many as 28 young women and girls attended these sensual soirees.
El Mahroug wasn’t the only underage girl allegedly involved with Berlusconi. There’s also Iris Berardi, a Brazilian former beauty queen and “well-known prostitute,” who was said to have been paid by the Prime Minister for sex when she was only 17. The age of sexual consent is 14 in Italy, but paying for sex with a minor is a criminal offense.
According to Britain’s Guardian, while the current sex scandal may have damaged Berlusconi’s standing among Italians, support for his Forza Italia party remains strong. Berlusconi, one of the richest men in Italy, has gotten himself out of some pretty tough predicaments before. But this looming trial is certainly the biggest threat he’s faced in his career. Italians wait with baited breath to see if their slick leader has got one last trick up his sleeve. It will certainly take something special to slip the noose this time.
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