Tuesday 26 September 2017

Clooney and Ronaldo will be called to Berlusconi 'bunga' trial

Nick Squires in Rome

Judges presiding over Silvio Berlusconi's 'bunga bunga' sex trial have given the go-ahead for George Clooney, the Hollywood actor, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese soccer star, to be called as witnesses.

The judges gave their approval to requests by defence lawyers and prosecutors to summon a total of 214 witnesses, including showgirls, television presenters and former government ministers.

Mr Berlusconi (75) is accused of paying for sex with a 17-year-old exotic dancer allegedly working as a prostitute, and of then committing an abuse of office by pressuring police in Milan to release her from custody on a theft charge.

He denies both allegations and insists he never had sex with the teenager, Moroccan-born Karima El Mahroug.

If convicted on the prostitution charge he could be sent to prison for up to three years while the abuse of office charge carries a maximum sentence of 12 years.

During questioning by investigators, which was leaked, she allegedly said she witnessed wild sex parties involving girls dressing up as nuns and performing pole dances.

She will be called as a prosecution witness, although she denies sleeping with the former prime minister.

The court's decision to accept the list of witnesses -- 78 for the defence and 136 for the prosecution -- ensures the trial can expect a "parade of VIPs", the Italian press said.

Mr Berlusconi's lawyers want to call Mr Clooney and Mr Ronaldo in order to undermine the credibility of Miss El Mahroug, now aged 18 and pregnant, who is better known as Ruby the Heart Stealer.

She told prosecutors that she met Mr Ronaldo in Milan -- a claim his lawyers vehemently deny, saying that he was not in the city on the dates cited.

Witnesses

The nightclub dancer also said she saw Mr Clooney at a dinner held by Mr Berlusconi at his mansion near Milan -- but the Hollywood star says he has only met the media magnate once, to talk about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Among the other witnesses summoned by the defence are Franco Frattini, Mr Berlusconi's foreign minister before the government collapsed earlier this month, and Mara Carfagna, his former equal opportunities minister, who started her career as a men's magazine model.

The defence will also call Mr Clooney's former girlfriend, Italian showgirl Elisabetta Canalis, and Belen Rodriguez, an Argentinian-born starlet who regularly appears on Italian television and in the pages of gossip magazines.

The prosecution will call 32 models and aspiring actresses who attended so-called "bunga-bunga" parties at Mr Berlusconi's villa at Arcore, which the Italian press have dubbed "hardcore".

The trial began in April but is still bogged down in procedural matters and no witnesses have yet given evidence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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