Italy’s Berlusconi acquitted in starlet bribery trial


Berlusconis defence lawyers say he is being tried for the crime of generosity. — AFP/file
Berlusconi’s defence attorneys say he’s being tried ‘for the crime of generosity’. — AFP/file 

MILAN: An Italian court docket on Wednesday acquitted billionaire former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of bribing witnesses to lie about his infamous “bunga bunga” events, bringing closure to a years-long intercourse scandal.

The media mogul, 86, stood accused of paying younger starlets and others for “silence and lies” about his notoriously hedonistic soirees, which he has at all times insisted have been elegant dinners.

Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia occasion is a part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s governing coalition, has lengthy been dogged by authorized battles, most of which he has gained.

The senator, who didn’t attend Wednesday’s listening to in Milan, had already been acquitted in two different associated circumstances of alleged bribery, in Siena in 2021 and Rome in 2022.

His lawyer Federico Cecconi stated he was “enormously happy”, though prosecutors might nonetheless attraction.

A responsible verdict would have been embarrassing for the federal government, and Berlusconi’s political allies have been fast to congratulate him.

Meloni stated the choice “places an finish to a protracted judicial affair that additionally had necessary repercussions on Italian political and institutional life”.

The decision is the fruits of a authorized battle which started in 2010 when Berlusconi — then prime minister — was accused of abusing his energy to guard a younger Moroccan nightclub dancer, Karima El-Mahroug.

Recognized by her stage identify “Ruby the Coronary heart Stealer”, she had been detained by police for theft, however was launched after Berlusconi claimed she was the niece of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Berlusconi was charged with paying for intercourse with Ruby in 2010 when she was simply 17.

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Hush cash

He was initially discovered responsible, however acquitted in 2014 after an appeals court docket discovered there was no proof he knew El-Mahroug was a minor.

Judges believed nevertheless that quite a few individuals had lied throughout the trial, together with El-Mahroug, who was caught on tape bragging about intercourse with Berlusconi.

She described orgiastic scenes at his events, earlier than later saying she made all of it up.

Prosecutors launched an investigation that led to the Milan trial, which opened in 2017.

Berlusconi, who was prime minister 3 times between 1994 and 2011, was accused of doling out tens of millions of euros in hush cash within the type of homes, vehicles and month-to-month payouts.

Nevertheless, his defence attorneys say the cash was compensation for reputational injury for these concerned within the case, and demand he was being tried “for the crime of generosity”.

Intercourse slaves

Prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano had earlier described Berlusconi as “a sultan” who used to “enliven his evenings with a gaggle of concubines, within the sense of intercourse slaves, who entertained him for a price”.

A few of these concerned say nothing untoward occurred in Berlusconi’s villa, which has a non-public nightclub. However others described orgies and feminine visitors dressing up as nuns to carry out erotic dances.

Prosecutors had known as for six years in jail for Berlusconi and between one and 6 years for the 27 different defendants on this case, together with 5 years for El-Mahroug.

All have been acquitted on Wednesday.

The judges have one other 90 days to publish their reasoning for the decision, at which level prosecutors might resolve to attraction.

Prosecutor Siciliano stated Wednesday she nonetheless believed the defendants lied, however stated there was a authorized query mark over whether or not or not they have been technically witnesses after they did so.

El-Mahroug stated the trial had been “very scary”, including: “Now I can stay once more”.

Former mannequin Marysthell Polanco, one other occasion visitor placed on trial, had instructed journalists her life had been “a nightmare” for the reason that trial started.

“They can not discover responsible somebody who has achieved nothing, the place there isn’t any proof, neither movies nor photographs, nothing however gossip,” she stated.

Prosecutors had additionally requested the court docket to confiscate 10.8 million euros ($11.5 million) from Berlusconi.

Regardless of a number of court docket circumstances — he claimed in 2021 to have gone by 86 trials — the previous premier has by no means frolicked behind bars.

Berlusconi was briefly banned from political workplace after a conviction for tax fraud in 2013, for which he served a group sentence.

He then returned to the political entrance strains and was re-elected as a senator final yr.


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