Bunga bunga parties were prostitution dens controlled by Berlusconi, say judges
Silvio Berlusconi was the "director" of the bunga bunga parties at his mansion and knowingly paid for sex with an under-age escort in a "proven system of prostitution", judges said yesterday.
The judges' report, which details the reasons for sentencing the former Italian prime minister to seven years in jail, comes days before politicians are due to vote on whether to kick Mr Berlusconi out of parliament, a move expected to end his 20-year political career.
The under-age escort in question, Karima El Mahroug, an erotic dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer, was one of a legion of young women whom Mr Berlusconi rewarded with "enormous" amounts of money and items of jewellery in return for sex in a "proven system of prostitution", the judges from the court in Milan said in a 331-page document.
"At night, the women entertained the master of the house in the hope of ample reward," the judges wrote, adding that 77-year-old Mr Berlusconi paid the dancer about e3,000 a time for at least two sexual encounters.
At the parties, women engaged in "lap dances, stripteases, dressing up (in nurse and policewomen uniforms) and mutual fondling," the court document said. Mr Berlusconi was convicted in June of paying for sex with Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, and abusing his office by putting pressure on police to have her released from a theft charge.
He was jailed for seven years but is appealing and remains free until Italy's highest court delivers a definitive sentence.
The judges said Mr Berlusconi orchestrated the sessions at his mansion at Arcore, outside Milan, where "female guests operated to satisfy the will of the accused".
When Ms El Mahroug was arrested in Milan in May 2010 on suspicion of stealing from her flatmate, Mr Berlusconi applied "heavy pressure" on police to release her without charge, fearing that the scandal would be made public.
He erroneously told police officers that the teenager was a relative of Hosni Mubarak, then president of Egypt, and that her detention could cause a diplomatic stand-off.
The claim earned a withering response from an Italian magistrate involved in the case, who said: "If she's Mubarak's grand-daughter then I'm Queen Nefertiti of the Nile."
The judges also accused the three-times premier of paying witnesses in the trial "huge sums of money and jewellery" to provide false testimony, with many of the young women claiming in court that the bunga bunga parties were not at all salacious and instead "elegant dinners" at which Mr Berlusconi serenaded them with love songs and told jokes.
The media tycoon had attempted to "systematically contaminate" the trial, which began in 2010. Mr Berlusconi knew "beyond any reasonable doubt" that Ms El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time of the encounters, was working as an under-age prostitute, the judges said.
It is illegal for a woman to sell herself for sex in Italy under the age of 18.
The Senate, the upper house of parliament, is expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to expel Mr Berlusconi in connection with a separate criminal conviction for tax fraud involving his Mediaset television company. (© Daily Telegraph, London)