The so called “bunga bunga” trial of Silvio Berlusconi, ex-PM of Italy has ended as he faces day of reckoning.
An Italian court will rule today whether Mr. Berlusconi abused his power in office and paid for sex with an alleged underage prostitute.
Prosecutors want the media tycoon jailed for six years on sex and corruption charges, and barred from ever holding public office.
The 76-year-old media billionaire has denied all the allegations in his bunga bunga sex trial. The titillating and sometimes circus –like trial lasted two years, amid farce and relentless embarrassment for Berlusconi.
One of the charges the media tycoon faces is that in 2010, he paid Karima El-Mahroug, also known as Ruby the Hearts Stealer, for sex. The Moroccan-born dancer was only 17 at the time. In Italy paying for sex with someone under 18 is illegal.
Berlusconi told the court he gave El-Mahroug envelopes filled with money, indeed stuffed with 500-euro notes, but does not admit to having sex with her. He also said he hosted “refined and elegant´ dinners at his Arcore mansion in Monza. But his claims of denial have contrasted with numerous tawdry claims from strippers and others.
El Mahroug told the court she did receive more than $7000 from Berlusconi, but it was as a gift after a party.
However, prosecutor Ilda Boccassini made the argument during closing that El Mahroug had lied when she denied having sex with the ex-premier. She also said the dancer had received more than $5,000,000 from Berlusconi.
Regarding abuse of the power of office, prosecutors claim billionaire Berlusconi lied to the police when he told them that El-Mahroug was then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter after she was detained by Italian police for suspected theft in 2010. He asked them to release her to avoid a diplomatic incident.
Berlusconi has insisted he is innocent of all charges and said that left-wing magistrates are out to get him.
Experts have said that even if Berlusconi is found guilty on Monday, he is entitled to two appeals. Also, because he is in his 70s, he will not go to prison because sources say Italian law protects septuagenarian from going to prison.
James Walston, professor of politics at the American University of Rome said on his blog, “It’s a great media story and no doubt there will be plenty of coverage but politically it will have no effect if he is convicted. This is the court of first instance and there are two more levels, which will take many years so, the final conviction, if there is one, is a long way off.”
According to reports even after the verdict in the bunga bunga trial is given, Berlusconi’s other legal problems will not be over. He is embroiled in other court cases and has further legal entanglements from his businesses. There are questions whether his Fininvest holding company will have to make half-a-billion euro compensation payment to a rival business.
The mogul is also accused of diverting hundreds of millions of euros to overseas slush funds.
Berlusconi was given a four-year sentence for tax fraud in October 2012 and lost an appeal last week. Neither Karima El-Mahroug nor Mr Berlusconi are expected in court for the verdict.
By Perviz Walji