Sex, cash and starlets: Berlusconi's "Rubygate"

Tue Apr 5, 2011 10:59am EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - In the dry wording of prosecution documents, sex parties at Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's palatial villa followed a well scripted routine drawing in erotic dancers and underage prostitutes.

First, as judges will hear when Berlusconi faces trial on Wednesday, came dinner; a meal often composed of foods in the red, white and green of Italy's tricolor flag.

Then followed what has become known as the "bunga bunga" session, "which took place in a disco-like room where the female participants engaged in dressing up, striptease and erotic dances, touching each other or touching and being touched in their intimate parts by Silvio Berlusconi."

Finally, at the end of the evening, 74-year-old Berlusconi would choose "one or more women with whom he spent the night in an intimate relationship," in exchange for money, expensive gifts or rent-free apartments.

The scandal has eaten away at the popularity of the media billionaire and cast a shadow on a political system dogged by corruption scandals throughout the post-war era. But he is in little danger of being forced from office before a verdict which may take years or may never come.

Prosecution documents list the names of 33 young women, mostly would-be starlets hoping to break into showbusiness on one of Berlusconi's television channels, who prosecutors say were paid to have sex with him.

For Berlusconi, who will not be present when the trial opens, only one of them matters.

She is Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan nightclub dancer known by the stage name of Ruby "Rubacuori" ("Heartstealer). She was 17 when, according to the prosecutors, she was paid to have sex with him. Paying for sex with a woman under 18 is a crime in Italy.   Continued...

<p>Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he leaves the Justice Palace in Milan March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo</p>