The inside of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s undergound Bunga Bunga room has been revealed as his trial for having sex with an underage prostitute resumes. The infamous room was allegedly used to hold erotic parties at which women performed stripteases and were paid for sex, though Berlusconi denies that it was used for anything so risque. Berlusconi, 76, is said to have slept with belly dancer Karima El Mahroug and given her cash and jewellery, after she attended his now infamous Bunga Bunga parties which he hosted at his Villa San Martino mansion outside Milan. At the time Miss El Mahroug, also known as Ruby the Heartstealer, was just 17 and technically a minor.
Bunga Bunga time: The underground room in Silvio Berlusconi’s villa where he held his infamous parties
In Italy the age of consent is 14, but paying a woman under the age of 18 for sex is seen as a criminal offence. The trial in Milan tomorrow is nearing the closing stages and resumes after a break in which Berlusconi’s legal team unsuccessfully tried to have the case moved out of the city and to Brescia claiming judges were biased against their client.
Berlusconi and Miss El Mahroug have always insisted nothing untoward happened at the parties and he has also stressed they were nothing more than elegant dinners – a claim he returned to in his TV interview given to Canale 5 one of the channels the media tycoon owns.
He said: ‘At the dinners nothing that could be defined incorrect or embarrassing took place.
‘There was a large table, and I would attract everybody’s attention, we would talk about everything, football, politics, anything. ‘No-one was ever asked to leave their mobile telephones, anyone could photograph anything they wanted or talk about what happened because there was nothing that couldn’t be spoken about.
‘I have nothing to hide.’
The interview will be broadcast on Sunday night as part of an hour-long documentary charting Berlusconi’s legal battles since he entered politics in the early 1990s and is called ‘The 20 Years War.’He has always insisted he is the the victim of left leaning prosecutors and judges who are politically motivated and out to get him in the various trials he has faced, which have cost him millions of Euros in legal fees.
At the last count there had been more than 2,500 court hearings against him in which he was accused of crimes ranging from Mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, bribery, corruption and perverting the course of justice.So far none have actually ended with him being convicted indefinitely – in Italy a verdict is not final until it has reached the third and final stage at the Supreme Court in Rome. Earlier this month a conviction for tax fraud was upheld against him and this now passes to the Supreme Court which will rule if the four year jail sentence should be enforced.
Party girl: Austrian entrepreneur Richard Lugner dancing with Ruby at the traditional Vienna Opera Ball in 2011
In the Milan trial he is currently involved in, Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with a minor and abuse of office, as prosecutors claim he told police Miss El Mahroug was related to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubrak and should be released after she was arrested on a theft charge. He told the programme: ‘I absolutely never had an intimate relationship with Ruby, a girl who introduced herself with a terrible story and who deserved nothing but commiseration.
‘She came one evening to a dinner and told a very dramatic story. ‘She said she was the daughter of a rich Egyptian family, that her parents had thrown her out because she wanted to embrace the Catholic faith. ‘She showed us scars caused by burning oil and spoke of her enormous difficulty, of how she had been in care.
‘She said she had arrived in Milan to work as a waitress in a restaurant. It was a story that moved everyone who was there.’
Exotic dancer: Bunga Bunga party girl Ruby the Heartstealer aka Karima El Mahroug
The story is similar to that Miss El Mahroug gave in a emotional and tear-filled interview to the same TV station two years ago, when details of the bunga bunga parties and her involvement first emerged. Prosecutors say that Miss El Mahroug was one of dozens of TV showgirls and wannabe starlets who were paid with cash, jewellery and cars to attend the parties and perform erotic dances and strip teases for Berlusconi. Photographs have been published in Italian newspapers and magazines of women dressed a nuns and police officers dancing provocatively at the parties which Berlusconi hosted at his villa at Arcore near Milan. If convicted of the sex charge, he faces three years in jail and for the public office he could be given 12 years. The two-hour documentary special also interviewed prosecutors, police officers and political associates of Berlusconi.
Programme officials have denied that it is an attempt to influence the trial insisting: ‘We have simply spoken to the main protagonists. Silvio Berlusconi and Ruby.’ Supporters of Berlusconi had planned to hold a protest outside the court building in Milan, but have now decided to cancel that following an ‘Everyone for Silvio’ rally in Brescia at the weekend. Berlusconi himself attended the protest and once again told the hundreds gathered that magistrates were ‘prejudiced and blinded by hatred’ against him. Police kept rival factions apart but two of his supporters were injured in minor scuffles. Berlusconi stepped down as PM two years ago as Italy verged on the brink of a financial crisis, but mounted a spirited campaign in the recent general election which saw him come second to the centre left.
His People of Freedom party is now part of the ruling coalition.
Victim: Berlusconi claims Ruby was had a ‘terrible story’ and was a victim of abuse