Berlusconi 'spent €280,000 on cars for his showgirls'
Silvio Berlusconi allegedly spent €280,000 on cars as gifts for starlets in his inner circle, it emerged yesterday.
The 13 vehicles included five Minis, four Mercedes Smart cars, a €70,000 Land Rover and a Volkswagen Beetle.
Details emerged from evidence submitted by prosecutors in Milan after an investigation into an alleged prostitution ring surrounding the Italian prime minister. Some of the cars went to showgirls and alleged prostitutes named in the investigation.
Prosecutors have amassed evidence from wire taps and bank accounts suggesting that Mr Berlusconi (74), a billionaire, showered his female friends with jewellery and cash, as well as putting them up in rent-free flats, but this is the first time that evidence has emerged of cars.
Money for the vehicles came directly from an account in Mr Berlusconi's name or indirectly through his accountant, according to prosecutors.
Mr Berlusconi has been ordered to stand trial in a Milan court on April 6 on charges of paying for sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old erotic dancer who was allegedly working as a prostitute, and of abuse of office in having her released from custody when she was arrested on theft accusations last year.
He has denied the allegations and claimed that he is being persecuted by a politically biased judiciary in league with the Italian press and left-wing opposition.
The teenager, Karima El-Mahroug, who nicknamed herself Ruby the Heart Stealer, has told investigators that Mr Berlusconi promised her an Audi R8 along with the bundles of cash and pieces of jewellery he gave her, but that the car never arrived.
Miss El-Mahroug (18), who denies sleeping with the prime minister, will turn up at a major European high society event on the arm of another rich, aged benefactor next month. She has been invited to Vienna's Opera Ball on March 3 by Richard Lugner (78), an Austrian construction magnate.
The invitation has caused controversy, with organisers saying they are embarrassed by the attention it is likely to bring.
Miss El-Mahroug will follow in the footsteps of Sophia Loren, Paris Hilton and Dita von Teese, the burlesque dancer, when she accompanies Mr Lugner.
It is not known how much money she will receive for appearing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)