The Moroccan dancer at the centre of Silvio Berlusconi’s prostitution trial took the stand in court for the first time yesterday, describing how female guests at Berlusconi’s “Bunga Bunga” parties stripped down to their underwear and dressed up as nuns, nurses and even US president Barack Obama.
Kharima el-Mahroug, better known by her stage name, Ruby the Heartstealer, was giving evidence at the trial of three associates of the former Italian prime minister accused of procuring prostitutes for him. Berlusconi is on trial separately for allegedly paying Ms Mahroug for sex when she was 17, a crime in Italy, as well as trying to cover this up.
During six hours of testimony, Ms Mahroug said accused Nicole Minetti, a regional councillor, dressed as a nun at a party at Berlusconi’s mansion near Milan, before stripping to her underwear, while Marystelle Polanco, a model, dressed as Mr Obama and Ilda Boccassini, the magistrate who has since brought Berlusconi to trial.
“The girls came close to him in a sensual way, raising their skirts,” she recalled.
Her account contrasts with a carefully packaged, two-hour programme broadcast last Sunday on one of Berlusconi’s TV channels, during which the 76-year-old media mogul claimed, “At the dinners nothing happened that could be defined as incorrect or embarrassing.” He also denies having sex with Ms Mahroug.
She told the court she received an envelope containing €2,000 (£1,700) at the end of her first evening at his house in 2010, and received €2,000-€3,000, always in €500 notes, after every successive party she attended. After telling Berlusconi of her dream of opening a health centre, she was handed €30,000 by Giuseppe Spinelli, the accountant entrusted by Berlusconi to make regular payments to his stable of young female party guests.
But Ms Mahroug denied having sex with Berlusconi and claimed during the stripteases at his parties, Berlusconi never touched his guests. When she slept at the house, there were other girls present, she said.
Recalling how she met him, Ms Mahroug said she participated, aged 16, in a beauty contest in Sicily attended by Emilio Fede, a former news anchor on a Berlusconi channel and one of the trio accused of pimping for him. She said she then made contact with Fede after moving to Milan and was soon invited to Berlusconi’s mansion.
At her first party, she said she told Berlusconi her mother was a singer related to former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and claimed to be 24. In court, magistrate Antonio Sangermano asked why she told a friend in a phone conversation wiretapped in 2010 that she had denied to investigators “the fact that Silvio knows I am a minor”.
“I told lies, for me lies were an automatic defence mechanism,” she said.
Asked about boasts of receiving an offer of €4.5 million from Berlusconi, allegedly to keep quiet, she said she had again lied.
Mr Sangermano then asked why she had written the figure down on a note.
“If it was true I would have had no need to write this number on a piece of paper,” she said. “I would have remembered it. I did it only to show off.”
She will return to court in Milan next week to give further testimony.