Silvio Berlusconi's private disco featured not only aspiring show girls performing striptease acts as sexy nuns and nurses, but also dressed as President Barack Obama, according to the first public sworn testimony by the Moroccan woman at the centre of the scandal.
Karima el-Mahroug's testimony yesterday at the trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused with procuring her and other woman for prostitution confirms a sexually charged atmosphere at the parties of the then premier.
They deny the charges. The trial is separate from the one in which Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex with a minor – el-Mahroug when she was 17 – and trying to cover it up.
El-Mahroug, now 20, said she attended a half a dozen parties, using her nickname Ruby, and that after each, he handed her an envelope with up to €3,000 in denominations of €500.
She said she later received €30,000 cash from the former premier paid through an intermediary – money that she told Berlusconi she wanted to use to open a beautician salon.
But she denied that Berlusconi had given her €5m. She said she told acquaintances she was going to receive such a large sum "as a boast", but it was a lie.
The three Berlusconi aides – Emilio Fede, an executive in Berlusconi's media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario 'Lele' Mora – are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor.
El-Mahroug said she first made contact with Berlusconi's inner circle when she participated in a beauty contest organised by Fede in Sicily when she was 16.
She made her way to Milan, and wound up as a hostess in nightclubs, earning €100 a night.
Eventually, she ran into Fede at a restaurant, where she reminded him of his promise to help her. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a dinner party, at Berlusconi's villa outside Milan.
She testified that she met the premier that night – Valentine's Day in 2010 – and that he gave her an envelope of €2,000-3,000, saying it was "a little help" and asking for her telephone number, which she gave him.
At that party, she said, she introduced herself as Ruby and told other guests that she was Egyptian. She was 17 but had passed herself off as being 23 or 24.
El-Mahroug confirmed that at some of the soirees, women had dressed as nuns and danced for Berlusconi and then stripped down to their underwear.
El-Mahroug said Minetti had dressed up as a nun at that party and lifted her costume to show off her legs as she danced in Berlusconi's in-house disco. El-Mahroug said Minetti eventually took off her costume and was in just her lingerie.
She said another girl dressed up as Obama.
El-Mahroug said she visited Berlusconi's mansion, Arcore, half a dozen times, and that each time she was given an envelope with money, always in €500 bills. The second evening she said she was given €2,000.