Focus on suspected pimps in Silvio sex scandal
Published 06/03/2011 | 05:00
While attention has focused on the glamorous young women who allegedly prostituted themselves with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the men alleged to have masterminded what was in effect a vast pimping network are anything but youthful.
Emilio Fede, a 79-year-old TV anchorman, is accused along with Dario 'Lele' Mora, 55, a celebrity agent, of procuring escort girls to attend "bunga bunga" sex parties with the 74-year-old prime minister, who is due to face trial next month accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Prosecutors are expected, within days, to present a dossier of evidence to a judge in Milan in which they will request that Mr Mora and Mr Fede face court on related charges, along with Nicole Minetti, 25, an Anglo-Italian former television showgirl.
The involvement of so many older men in the bunga bunga affair has become a national joke in Italy, with critics likening it to an episode of The Benny Hill Show. Yet it has also shown how blurred the worlds of politics, media and showbusiness have become.
Mr Fede and Mr Mora are household names in Italy, one the presenter of a nightly news programme on the Berlusconi-owned television channel, Rete 4, the other a flamboyant impresario who has made a career in recruiting models to star in TV variety shows.
Mr Fede is nicknamed 'Fido' for his unwavering loyalty to Mr Berlusconi, and has a reputation for using his evening news programme as a platform for attacking the prime minister's opponents. He broadcasts Mr Berlusconi's televised speeches in their entirety, and dismisses the frequent allegations of corruption, embezzlement and tax fraud against his billionaire boss as the works of "idiots" and "stupid Communists".
It was Mr Fede who "discovered" Karima El Mahroug, the Moroccan-born dancer who prosecutors claim was working as a prostitute at the age of 17 and had sex with the prime minister. Paying for sexual relations with a prostitute who is not yet 18 is a crime in Italy, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
Mr Fede reportedly spotted her when he was a judge at a beauty pageant in Sicily in September 2009. He then allegedly passed her on to Mr Mora, whose offices in Milan allegedly acted as a form of "clearing centre" for women eager to enter the prime minister's circle in pursuit of money, gifts and help with their showbusiness careers.
Within months, she was attending parties at Mr Berlusconi's mansion at Arcore, near Milan, where the prime minister and his aged cronies were allegedly entertained by groups of pole-dancing, naked women in a special underground chamber.
For his part, Mr Mora has made -- and lost -- a fortune as a talent scout. Last year his company, LM Management, was declared bankrupt with huge losses. He reportedly owes the Italian taxman €16m.
Openly gay, he likes to surround himself with young male models, in one instance being photographed reclining on cushions wearing a white kaftan and a white fez. He also announced last week that he wants to put himself up as a candidate at Italy's next general election, due in 2013. "If they want me, I'm ready, although only after I've been acquitted," he said.