Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bunga-case girls face prosecution for perjury during Berlusconi trial

Karima el Mahroug
Karima el Mahroug
Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend Francesca Pascale

Nick Squires Rome

More than 30 witnesses who gave evidence in defence of Silvio Berlusconi in his sex trial could be prosecuted for false testimony.

They include many of the starlets, glamour models and alleged escorts who attended the "bunga bunga" sex parties at his mansion near Milan.

The suspicion is that they lied under oath when they denied anything risqué went on at the parties, insisting instead that they were innocent dinners where they enjoyed good food and Mr Berlusconi's company.

Their descriptions, heard by the court during a trial lasting over two years, were strikingly similar.

It emerged during the trial that the 76-year-old billionaire was still giving regular monthly payments to several of the women as "gifts".

It was also revealed that some of them were living rent-free in apartments he owns in Milan that he built as a young entrepreneur before he entered politics in the early 1990s. The payments and the rent-free housing threw into question the reliability of the evidence given by the women.

The 76-year-old former prime minister was sentenced to seven years in jail and a lifetime ban on holding public office on Monday after being found guilty of abuse of office and paying for sex with an alleged underage prostitute, a Moroccan-born belly dancer nicknamed Ruby the Heart Stealer.

The guilty verdict and sentence was delivered by a panel of three female judges in the court in Milan.

The judges said they had asked prosecutors to look into suspicions that the defence witnesses had lied to the court in order to try to help Mr Berlusconi. The sex trial has already spawned a second, parallel trial, in which three of his associates, including an Anglo-Italian showgirl who became a politician for his conservative PDL party, are accused of procuring prostitutes for the bunga bunga parties. A verdict in that trial is expected on July 12.

EMBARRASSMENT

Now it could lead to a third trial, prolonging the former premier's legal woes and heightening the embarrassment of his party.

The list of witnesses to be investigated includes two young female MPs from his party, as well as Mariano Apicella, a singer from Naples with whom Mr Berlusconi has recorded albums of cheesy love songs.

The list also includes more than a dozen starlets, including two sets of twin showgirls, aspiring models such as Barbara Faggioli and Miriam Loddo, and a Brazilian alleged prostitute, Michelle Conceicao.

During the trial, many of them told the court that they were receiving cash payments of e2,500 a month from the former prime minister.

They said it was "compensation" because their lives had been ruined after being portrayed as "whores" in the media.

Mr Berlusconi's allies are furious about his conviction, claiming it is part of a vendetta by the Italian judiciary, which they accuse of being left-leaning and biased against him. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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