Tuesday 28 February 2017

Noose tightens on Silvio as row grows over 'Ruby'

Lorenzo Totaro in Rome

Demonstrators clash with police outside Padua's prefecture where Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was meeting with authorities to discuss flooding in the region
Demonstrators clash with police outside Padua's prefecture where Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was meeting with authorities to discuss flooding in the region

THE noose was tightening around the neck of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last night with confirmation that he telephoned a high-ranking police officer in Milan to enquire about the arrest of an underage woman on theft charges.

Revelations about Mr Berlusconi's links to the woman who calls herself "Ruby Heart Stealer" have prompted a wave of calls for Mr Berlusconi's resignation from opposition leaders.

In the telephone call to the police chief Mr Berlusconi referred to "Ruby" -- whose real name is Karima Keyek -- as a relative of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The country's minister for the interior confirmed that the calls took place yesterday.

The 74-year-old is alleged to have given the girl €7,000 as a gift and reportedly called police to free her after she had been detained for theft.

Politicians have demanded that Mr Berlusconi resign and he has been lambasted by the Catholic weekly 'Famiglia Cristiana' for lacking "self-control".

The saga of the dancer -- has exploded into the latest scandal over the Italian prime minister's private life.

According to the minister, on May 27 the chief of staff of Milan's police headquarters received a call "from a member of the prime minister's security detail who passed him to the premier," Roberto Maroni told Italy's upper house.

"Berlusconi enquired about the presence in the police station of a North-African girl who had been presented to him as a relative of President Mubarak."

Influence

Mr Maroni was asked to testify on the case after press reports that Mr Berlusconi used his influence to secure the release of the girl, a nightclub dancer who had attended a party at his Milan residence.

On the night of her arrest in May, the premier's staff called a second time "about an hour later to get more details" on what had happened to the girl, Maroni added. The woman was eventually released when a Nicole Minetti, a Lombardy official, arrived and accepted custody of her, Maroni said. Minetti is a former television dancer and Berlusconi's former dental hygienist. A Moroccan runaway completely unrelated to Mubarak, Ruby was 17 years old at the time of her arrest.

Mr Berlusconi has admitted helping the girl, saying he had merely aided a young woman "in a tragic situation."

He has denied pressuring officials to release her.

The girl said in a November 2 interview that she attended a party in February at one of Mr Berlusconi's residences with 10 other women and was given cash and gifts by the premier. She said that she told Mr Berlusconi that she was 24 years old at the time.

Adding to problems is the fact that the long stand-off between Mr Berlusconi and his former ally Gianfranco Fini has now turned into open conflict adding to the sense of crisis in the country.

Irish Independent

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