Wednesday 20 September 2017

Berlusconi 'militant' in cover-up, court told

Nick Squires in Rome

Silvio Berlusconi tried to cover up his relationship with a teenage nightclub dancer in what amounted to a "military attack", Italian prosecutors said yesterday.

The claim came at the resumption of the trial in which he is accused of paying the young woman for sex.

The Italian prime minister has been accused of abusing his office by phoning a Milan police station and putting officers under pressure to release Karima El Mahroug, also known by her stage name as 'Ruby the Heart Stealer', after being arrested for theft.

Mr Berlusconi allegedly sent two associates to collect the 17-year-old from the police station.

One was Nicole Minetti, an Anglo-Italian showgirl, who his party elevated into politics, and the other was Michelle Conceicao, a Brazilian starlet, who was known to the prime minister.

"It was a military attack, an encirclement, and it was all directed towards the police station," said Ilda Boccassini, the chief prosecutor.

Mr Berlusconi's attempt to bail out the teenager occurred on the night of May 27, 2010, after she had been accused by a friend of stealing several thousand euro in cash and was later arrested.

Prosecutors claim the 74-year-old was terrified that she would talk about their relationship and that he did all he could to extricate her from questioning.

Ms Boccassini dismissed an application by Mr Berlusconi's lawyers for the case either to be dropped or transferred to Rome, to be heard by a special tribunal of ministers.

She insisted that the court in Milan had full jurisdiction over the case, contrary to what the prime minister's legal team argued during a hearing last week.

Privacy

Prosecutors also dismissed Mr Berlusconi's claims that his privacy was invaded when investigators wire-tapped the mobile phones of people who attended private parties at his large home near Milan, including television personalities and aspiring showgirls.

Mr Berlusconi denies paying Ms El Mahroug for sexual relations. The Moroccan-born dancer insists that she never slept with the billionaire tycoon.

The trial, which began on April 6, was adjourned until July 18, when the court is expected to announce if it will uphold any of the defence's objections. ( © Daily Telegraph, London)

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