THE young Moroccan woman at the centre of Silvio Berlusconi’s sex-for-hire scandal has been fined for twice failing to appear as a witness at the former premier’s trial.
Karima el-Mahroug, also known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, was the last witness to be called in the case, in which Berlusconi is accused of having paid for sex with her when she was 17 and then trying to cover it up. She has been ordered to turn up next month.
The court fined Ms el-Mahroug, who is in Mexico on holiday, €500 (£400).
Prosecutors have accused the defence, which called her as a witness, of trying to delay a verdict. Italian law does not carry particularly strict penalties for those who fail to appear.
Prosecutors are scheduled to give their closing arguments on 28 January, followed by the defence on 4 February.
That leaves room for the verdict to be delivered in February, just as Italy heads towards a national election. The 76-year-old Berlusconi has flirted with running again, but most recently has said he would step aside if premier Mario Monti, who runs a technocrat government that replaced the media mogul’s, decides to run as a moderate.
In a weekend interview, Berlusconi apologised for his now-infamous “bunga bunga” parties, saying he had been lonely after having split from his second wife. Veronica Laria left him in 2008, citing alleged dalliances with young women.