Berlusconi gets 7-year jail term for sex with underage prostitute
Prosecutors painted picture of a private life in which sex-crazed former leader entertained himself with his own private harem, reports Paddy Agnew
Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to seven years in prison for paying an underage teen for sex during his “bunga bunga”parties near Milan in 2010. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A court calendar showing Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s name, where he is the defendant. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
The president of the court Giulia Turri (centre) at the trial against Italy’s former prime minister. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
Silvio Berlusconi’s defence lawyer, Longo, poses at court before the start of Berlusconi’s trial in Milan. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
In a sensational ruling, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi this afternoon in Milan received a life-long ban from public office and a seven year (suspended) prison sentence for “abuse of office” and “involvement in underage prostitution” in the context of the so-called “Rubygate” sex scandal trial.
The 76-year-old media tycoon expressed outrage tonight at the verdict which he said was politically motivated.
“An incredible sentence has been issued of a violence never seen or heard of before, to try to eliminate me from the political life of this country,” Berlusconi said in a statement.
“Yet again I intend to resist against this persecution because I am absolutely innocent and I don’t want in any way to abandon my battle to make Italy a country that is truly free and just.”
Although Mr Berlusconi’s ban from public office does not take effect immediately, given that his defence has already indicated that it will appeal today’s verdict, the political fall-out from this sentence is nonetheless likely to be explosive.
In particular, the current fragile coalition government led by Enrico Letta and comprising Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right PDL and the centre-left PD may now be jeopardised.
Over the years, Mr Berlusconi has consistently argued that he is the victim of a political witch-hunt organised by left-wing magistrates. An immediate negative indication from the Berlusconi camp came from the former parliamentary whip, Fabrizio Cicchitto, who said that the court verdict had terminated the current climate of “pacification” between the two major parties.
Over the last 20 years Mr Berlusconi has featured in at least 20 major court cases in which he has been accused, but nearly always NOT convicted, of corruption, bribery, fraud, false bookeeping, money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes.
To some extent, however, the “Rubygate” trial has been the most ignominiously controversial of all his many trials since, if the state prosecutor’s case were to be believed, it painted a picture of a private life in which the sex-crazed former prime minister entertained himself with his own private harem usually in the “Bunga, Bunga” room at his Villa San Martino residence in Arcore, outside Milan.
Essentially, the three women judges had to rule on two critical accusations. Firstly, had his parties in Arcore been sexual orgies involving the then 17-year-old Karima “Ruby or, as Mr Berlusconi has consistently claimed, had they been merely “elegant dinner parties”, featuring some after dinner “burlesque” cabaret?
Secondly, why on the night of May 27th, 2010 had Mr Berlusconi found time during an OECD summit in Paris to urgently contact the Milan police station where Ruby was being held on theft charges, to urge that she be released?
Had he done so because, as he has claimed, he was keen to avoid a diplomatic incident since he genuinely believed that she was the granddaughter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak?
Or, had he done so in order to cover up his own involvement with Ruby the Heart Stealer? The extent to which the court has accepted the prosecution’s version of events was underlined by at least two aspects of today’s verdict.
Firstly, the court issued a harsher sentence, seven years, than that originally called for by state prosecutor Ilda Boccassini. Secondly, the court has passed on the trial records to the Public Prosecutor’s office, calling for a number of defence witnesses to be investigated on charges of perjury. Not only the “Olgettine” girls, the so-called private Berlusconi harem, but also Euro MPs, deputies and one police duty officer who gave evidence favourable to Mr Berlusconi’s defence have been accused of lying.
The case against the former prime minister has been built on the evidence not only of a number of guests at the so-called Bunga Bunga parties but also on a huge body of wiretaps featuring various protagonists as well as police records from the May 2010 night when Ruby was temporarily detained.