Three women at Berlusconi's bunga party 'were escorts'
Police officer is first of 200 witnesses as trial over 'underage sex' kicks off
Three female guests invited to Silvio Berlusconi's infamous 'bunga bunga' parties were prostitutes, a police officer told an Italian court yesterday.
The 75-year-old former prime minister is on trial accused of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office in relation to the parties he threw at his luxury villa, which were attended by dozens of TV starlets and models, who he is said to have paid with cars, jewellery and cash.
The media tycoon turned politician was not in court for the hearing, which opened after a three-hour delay as his lawyers argued for more time to be given to them to go through bundles of documents that will be presented as evidence.
Police officer Marco Ciacci was the first of more than 200 witnesses who will give evidence at the trial in Milan, with Hollywood star George Clooney and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo also called to testify.
Mr Ciacci told the court that three of the 33 women who attended the parties -- Iris Berardi, Michelle Conceicao and Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby the Heart Stealer -- were known to be prostitutes.
He told prosecutor Antonio Sangermano: "There is evidence to show that these three women were actively involved in prostitution," as the court was shown photographs of Ms El Mahroug in provocative poses, which were seized from a nightclub in Genoa.
Mr Berlusconi is said to have paid Ms El Mahroug for sex when she attended the parties at his villa in Arcore when she was 17 and therefore a minor.
Mr Berlusconi, who resigned as Italian prime minister last month, is also said to have abused his office by using his power to have Ms El Mahroug freed from jail when she was arrested for theft in May 2010, wrongly telling police she was related to then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Mr Ciacci also told the court that, during the investigation, they had seized a letter that had been addressed to Ms Berardi's mother and described how her daughter was a high-class escort.
Details of the parties emerged earlier this year, with prosecutors claiming that women dressed as nuns and police officers or wore AC Milan football shirts as they performed stripteases and lap dances for Mr Berlusconi and two of his friends.
The parties are said to have taken place in the basement of his villa, which was dubbed the 'bunga bunga' room and which was kitted out with a pole, stage and DJ console.
Mr Berlusconi has insisted that "nothing untoward" took place at the parties, which were just "convivial dinners with dancing and singing".
Earlier this year, he said having sex with 33 women would be impossible for a man half his age, let alone one of his years.
If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail for the sex offence and 12 years for abuse of office. (© Daily Telegraph, London)