ITALIAN prosecutors have demanded a six-year jail sentence and a lifetime ban on holding public office for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, charged with abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor.
The 76-year-old billionaire media tycoon and centre-right senator is accused of paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug| – whose stage name is “Ruby the Heartstealer” – when she was under 18, during the notorious “bunga bunga” parties at his villa at Arcore near Milan in 2010.
But prosecutors considered the more serious charge was that, in a separate incident, he abused the powers of his office by arranging for her to be released from police custody where she was being held on theft charges.
They yesterday requested five years jail for that and a year for paying for sex with a minor. The verdict is expected on 24 June.
“At Arcore there was a system of organised prostitution aimed at the satisfaction of the sexual pleasure of Silvio Berlusconi,” chief prosecutor Ilda Boccassini said in her closing argument. “There is no doubt Ruby had sex with the defendant, from whom she received benefits.”
Ms Boccassini put the monetary sum of the benefits at €4.5 million (£3.8m) between October and December 2010 from the then-premier, citing a written note and phone calls where money exchanges were discussed.
Under Italian law, it is illegal to pay for sex with a minor under 18 years of age.
Ms Boccassini pointed out that it was Berlusconi’s own government that had raised the age from 17 – Ms Mahroug’s age at the time of their alleged encounters.
Berlusconi has denied the sex-for-hire charges, and said he intervened on Ms Mahroug’s behalf when she was picked up for allegedly stealing from an acquaintance because he believed at the time she was the daughter of then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and wanted to avoid an international incident.
Ms Boccassini said he knew that was not the case, and that he had “abused his position” to help the girl avoid legal problems and himself avoid discussion of “sex for payment”.
Ms Mahroug, who staged a dramatic protest outside the Milan court last month, has always denied being a prostitute or having sex with Berlusconi.
Ms Boccassini described Ms Mahroug as a troubled adolescent who had run away from her parents and foster homes, and had been formally accused of theft of wallets and expensive jewellery on several occasions. Despite being unemployed, Ms Mahroug wore designer clothes and at times carried up to €1,000 in cash, the prosecutor said.
The sentencing request adds to a mass of legal problems facing Berlusconi, who last week lost an appeal against a four-year sentence for tax fraud. Berlusconi will now launch a second and final appeal in that case.
No final verdict will be enforced until the appeals process is exhausted, but Berlusconi’s legal sagas have created growing tension within the coalition government of prime minister Enrico Letta.
Berlusconi mounted a fierce attack on prosecutors over the weekend at a stormy rally in the northern city of Brescia attended by centre-right members of the government, including interior minister Angelino Alfano.
Mr Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) sharply criticised Mr Alfano’s presence at the rally, which it took as an endorsement of Berlusconi’s comments. The prime minister warned his coalition partners that there could be no repeat if the government was to survive.
Berlusconi’s campaign continued on Sunday with a two-hour special show on his own Canale 5 TV channel presenting his version of the events of the “bunga bunga” evenings where prosecutors allege sex parties involving young women took place.
It presented an array of witnesses who said the evenings there were convivial parties where he entertained guests by singing and telling stories.