Connect to share and comment

Italian prosecutors sum up in Berlusconi sex trial

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Italian prosecutors presented their final arguments on Monday at the close of Silvio Berlusconi's trial for having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office in a legal storm that is shaking the government.

The hearing is one of the last in a trial that began two years ago and relates to alleged crimes in 2010 when Berlusconi was still prime minister and revolves around alleged raunchy "bunga bunga" parties at his luxury residence outside Milan.

"The women invited to the then prime minister's private residence were part of a prostitution system set up for the personal sexual satisfaction of the defendant Silvio Berlusconi," said prosecutor Ilda Boccassini in a live feed from the courtroom broadcast by news channel Sky TG 24.

Prosecutors are expected to request a sentence of at least five years in prison for the flamboyant billionaire tycoon, who was not present for the hearing, Italian media reported.

A verdict could come later this month.

Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex on several occasions with Moroccan-born Karima El-Mahroug, a then 17-year-old exotic dancer nicknamed as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".

Boccassini said El-Mahroug, a teenage runaway who was initially spotted by a Berlusconi associate at a beauty contest in Sicily when she was 16, had become the prime minister's "favourite".

It is also alleged that Berlusconi called a police station to pressure for her release from custody when she was arrested for petty theft. According to prosecutors, he did so because he was fearful she could reveal their liaison.

Berlusconi, 76, denies all charges and says the trial is only the latest example of "judicial persecution" by left-wing prosecutors in Milan.

The legal woes are straining relations within Prime Minister Enrico Letta's grand coalition government in which Berlusconi's People of Freedom party is a crucial coalition partner.

Moderate leftist Letta reacted angrily over the weekend when Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano attended a rally against the judiciary in which Berlusconi also took part on Saturday.

Berlusconi has been under investigation or on trial since entering politics in the 1990s after a successful career in construction and media.

Berlusconi says the gatherings at his home were elegant dinner parties followed by "burlesque contests" in a discotheque in the basement.

Prosecutors and some of the attendees say the gatherings were hardcore strip shows and were followed by sex for money with some of the girls.

They referred to the parties as "bunga bunga".

El-Mahroug has repeatedly denied sleeping with Berlusconi and complains she was not asked to testify by either the prosecution or the defence.

But she boasted of their liaison to friends and telephone intercepts leaked in Italian media appear to show she had wanted a pay-off from him.

Three of Berlusconi's friends -- a showbusiness agent, a former network anchor and a former regional assemblywoman -- are on trial on pimping charges in a separate trial linked to the case.

This is only the latest of Berlusconi's legal woes.

A Milan court earlier this month upheld Berlusconi's conviction on tax fraud charges, confirming the punishment of a year's prison sentence and a five-year ban from public office which is frozen pending a second appeal.

Prosecutors in Naples have also requested a trial against Berlusconi for allegedly bribing a left-wing senator to join his party.

dt/lc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130513/italian-prosecutors-sum-berlusconi-sex-trial-0