‘Ample evidence’ Berlusconi paid for sex
Premier denies allegations, says in steady relationship
17 January, 17:24
Milan, January 17 – Milan prosecutors say they have “ample evidence” Premier Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with young women at his residences, according to a formal request sent Monday to parliament asking for permission to search the office of the premier’s accountant.
“A significant number of young women prostituted themselves with Silvio Berlusconi at his residences in exchange for sums of money,” the request said.
As well as money, the women received free housing in the plush Milan district built by Berlusconi in the late 1970s before he became a media magnate, the prosecutors said.
Berlusconi, 74, who denies the allegations stemming from a probe into underage prostitution, said in a TV message Sunday that he had never paid for sex and was in a steady relationship with an unnamed woman.
In the request, the prosecutors also said a teen Moroccan belly dancer who spurred the probe into underage prostitution was at the premier’s Milan residence at least eight times between February and May 2010.
They said they had discovered this from examining the phone records of the young woman, Karima El Mahroug, 17 at the time. In a tapped conversation between two other women released Monday, one allegedly said to the other: “the papers say much less than the truth, even when they massacre him (Berlusconi).
“Either you’re up for everything or else you can get a taxi and leave,” the woman added.
The prosecutors meanwhile said they would press on “serenely” in the probe despite the premier’s claim they were politically motivated.
On Sunday Berlusconi accused the prosecutors of waging “political battles” and “illegitimately using their powers” to try to bring him down.
In reply Monday, Chief Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said the probe had been “obligatory” because of incriminating evidence taken last year, first from the phone records of El Mahroug, better known under her stage name Ruby Rubacuore (‘Ruby the Heart-Stealer’).
Bruti Liberati also cited the Constitutional principle that everyone is presumed innocent until receiving a definitive sentence in Italy’s three-tier justice system, a process that can take years.
The prosecutors have asked for a fast-track trial in the case and summoned Berlusconi for questioning at the end of this week, but the premier’s lawyers have indicated he may not answer the summons.
Ruby has admitted attending three parties at Berlusconi’s residence outside Milan and said she received 7,000 euros ($9,400) from him, but denies having sex.
Paying for sex with a minor currently carries a jail sentence of three years but parliament is in the process of ratifying an international convention that would raise the penalty to six years.
In a TV message on Sunday, Berlusconi reiterated he had never paid for sex in his life, calling the notion “absurd”.
The premier also revealed that he had been in a steady relationship since separating from his wife in 2009 when she accused him of “frequenting minors” after he attended the 18th birthday party of a Neapolitan aspiring actress who says she often visited him and called him “Daddy”.
Berlusconi said he had not wanted to name his companion so as to keep her out of the media glare.
As well as facing possible prostitution charges, Berlusconi is also under investigation for alleged abuse of power in getting Ruby out of a scrape on the night of May 27-28.
Berlusconi allegedly asked for Ruby to be released after an allegation of theft because she was, he said, the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
He has said he believed her when the girl, daughter of a street vendor, told him this, as well as saying she was 24. Berlusconi has denied abuse of power, saying he only inquired about the case. He says this version of events has been corroborated by police.
After phoning Milan’s main police station to inquire about Ruby, Berlusconi sent a Lombardy regional councillor, his former dental hygienist Nicole Minetti, to take her under her wing, but the girl eventually went away with a Brazilian prostitute.
Minetti is under investigation for allegedly procuring prostitutes along with two of Berlusconi’s close friends, veteran TV anchor Emilio Fede and showbiz talent scout Lele Mora, who the premier has admitted helping with debts.
El Mahroug, who has been in and out of homes after running away from her religiously observant family, was depicted by the premier as a “tragic” figure he helped out because of his natural generosity.
Berlusconi deflected attention from the scandal with trademark quips about his well-known liking for girls and controversially added that liking beautiful women was better than being gay.
The news about the prostitution probe on Friday came a day after a Constitutional Court ruling that partially struck down an immunity law shielding the premier from three trials.
Berlusconi and his supporters claim the probe is another “clockwork justice” stunt aimed at undermining the premier, who is struggling to widen his House majority after a wafer-thin victory in a confidence vote last month.
Italy’s prime minister pledges to punish magistrates who mounted an investigation over allegations he paid an under-age prostitute: here.