Italian PM Berlusconi sex trial to begin

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi’s sex trial is due to start in Milan – although the man himself is not expected to attend.

The Italian prime minister is accused of paying an underage prostitute and abusing his powers as leader to cover up the sordid affair.

The 74-year-old has denied the sex allegations, but the affair is threatening to bring down his government.

Prosecutors claim they have intercepts of telephone conversations which incriminate the PM.

Court documents allege he gave several thousand euros to a girl called Karima El-Maroug – known as Ruby – when she was 17.

It is an offence in Italy to pay a girl aged under 18 for sex.

The money was allegedly handed over after she attended ‘sex parties’ at his mansion in Arcore, just outside Milan.

Investigators say dozens of girls attended the ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties, which descended into orgies.

Sky News tracked down one of the alleged escorts – Barbara Guerra – who it is claimed went to the parties dressed as a policewoman.

She say the case is a fabrication and the photo was taken somewhere else.

“That photograph of me as a policewoman that has come out is not proof,” she said.

“The interceptions are of no relevance to Arcore. It is an intrusion into our private lives and that is a very serious matter.”

Berlusconi – who is one of Italy’s richest men – is not due to attend the hearing, which will focus largely on technical legal matters.

The main evidence is expected to be presented to judges in June.

Nearly 200 witnesses are likely to be called for the trial. Actor George Clooney and footballer Christiano Ronaldo are among those listed to give evidence.

Silvio Berlusconi is no stranger to criminal trials and is currently involved in three other cases relating to his media empire.

This prosecution though is by far the most serious, involving as it does allegations of underage prostitutes and abusing his role of prime minister.

If convicted the billionaire could face up to 12 years in prison.

Few seriously believe Berlusconi will be found guilty, but the case has damaged his standing as a self-styled politician of family values.

Even the most broad-minded Italians are starting to have second thoughts about the man who is known as the ‘Cavalier’.

But despite the disturbing nature of the allegations most commentators think he will survive the storm.
Source: Sky News

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