(Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faces a trial Wednesday on charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his powers as part of a cover-up.
Here is a timeline of the scandal.
October 2010 - Media reports reveal that 17-year old Karima el Mahroug, a 17-year old Moroccan nightclub dancer known by the stage name of Ruby Heartstealer, told magistrates that she attended parties with other young women at Berlusconi’s villa near Milan.
She called them “bunga bunga” parties, in a reference to sexual activities that occurred at the events. Paying for sex with a minor is a crime in Italy.
October 30 - Newspapers publish details of what they say is a phone call Berlusconi made to a Milan police chief on May 28 2010, when Ruby was detained for stealing a 3,000 euro bracelet from a friend. Berlusconi asked the police not to send Ruby to a shelter, presenting her as the niece of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Ruby was released and entrusted to Nicole Minetti, the prime minister’s former dental hygienist and now a member of the Lombardy regional council.
The interior minister and police officers say the proper procedures were respected. But the magistrate for juvenile offences who was on duty on the night of Ruby’s detention says her order that the girl be sent to a shelter was contravened.
November 2 - Dismissing the reports as trash, Berlusconi says that liking beautiful girls is “better than being gay.” He also says he helped Ruby because she was a girl in need but denies exerting any improper influence on police.
In an interview with a magazine, Ruby — who has since turned 18 — denies having had sex with Berlusconi but says she received 7,000 euros from him after a party she attended with a group of young women in February. She says she told him she was 24 when they met.
January 14 - Milan prosecutors notify Berlusconi that he is under investigation in the case. Berlusconi’s lawyer dismisses the probe as “absurd and groundless.”
In a TV interview on one of Berlusconi’s channels, Ruby says she was abused as a child and has “invented a parallel life.”
January 16. Berlusconi says he has never paid for sex and is in a stable relationship. His partner has not yet emerged.
January 17 - Prosecutors say a “significant” number of young women prostituted themselves with Berlusconi and that he gave some of them free use of apartments in a residential complex he built near Milan.
In the following days, hundreds of pages released by prosecutors are gradually leaked to the press, describing erotic parties at Berlusconi’s villa.
The opposition says Berlusconi must resign, the Vatican says politicians must have a moral and sober lifestyle and even the main business lobby distances itself from him.
February 8 - Milan prosecutors say they believe they have enough evidence in the case to seek a fast-track trial.
February 13 - An estimated 1 million people, mostly women, demonstrate against Berlusconi in more than 200 Italian cities, saying the sex scandal has disgraced the country.
February 15 - A judge orders Berlusconi to stand trial on April 6 in the case. The next day Berlusconi vows to stay on until the end of his term in 2013 saying he is “not worried in the least” by the scandal.
April 6. His trial opens.