(Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi goes on trial this week on charges that he paid for sex with an underage teen-ager and then abused his office to cover up the affair. The case adds to other legal problems for the conservative leader, who is already a defendant in three separate trials linked to his TV business empire.
Following are details of the legal proceedings against him.
— Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug in 2010, when she was 17-year old, below the legal age for prostitution in Italy.
— El Mahroug, known by her nickname “Ruby,” was one of a “significant” number of prostitutes who received cash and gifts after attending Berlusconi’s parties and allegedly taking part in “bunga bunga” erotic games, the prosecutors say.
— Berlusconi is also charged with abusing the powers of his office to try to cover up his connection with El Mahroug by pressuring police to release her from custody after she was detained over separate theft allegations.
— Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex and says he did not have sex with Ruby. He also says she told him she was 24.
— He has acknowledged calling police on her behalf in May 2010, but says he did not exert improper influence to obtain her release and that he was only trying to avert a potential diplomatic embarrassment because he had been told she was a relative of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
— The trial starts on April 6.
— Berlusconi and other executives at his Mediaset private broadcaster are accused of inflating the price paid for acquiring television rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi, skimming off part of the sum declared to create illegal slush funds.
— Berlusconi and the company have rejected the prosecutors’ accusations.
— The trial, effectively suspended for one year, resumed on February 28 after Italy’s constitutional court lifted Berlusconi’s automatic immunity from prosecution.
— A related case in which Berlusconi and others, including his son Pier Silvio Berlusconi, who is deputy chairman of Mediaset, are accused of fraud and embezzlement over the acquisition of television rights for inflated prices. The defendants reject the accusations.
— Berlusconi appeared in court for the first time in 8 years for the preliminary hearing in the case, on March 28.
— Berlusconi is accused of paying British lawyer David Mills a $600,000 bribe in 1997 to give false testimony in court and withhold incriminating details of business dealings.
— Mills was convicted of taking the bribe and sentenced to 4-1/2 years in jail but a higher court effectively shelved the case by ruling that under Italy’s statute of limitations, the offence was committed too long ago for him to be punished.
— The trial resumed on March 11.