Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned last year amid charges of abuse of power and engaging a minor in prostitution, told a Milan court he never had sex with the woman at the center of the charges.
“I never had intimate relations of any kind” with Karima El Mahroug, Berlusconi said today in prepared testimony. “I never put pressure on members of the Milan police force. I limited myself to a request for information.”
Berlusconi, 76, is being tried for his ties to El Mahroug and his contacts with police officers who detained the woman in 2010 and subsequently let her go. Berlusconi had previously denied ever paying for sex. El Mahroug, a Moroccan who danced in nightclubs under the stage name Ruby Heart Stealer, says she attended at least one party at Berlusconi’s mansion near Milan in February 2010, when she was 17.
“I was sure she was 24, like she said,” Berlusconi said today, in front of a panel of three judges. “Everyone was absolutely convinced that Ruby was of age.”
El Mahroug has denied having sex with the former premier, while acknowledging that he gave her money. She said in an interview with television station SkyTG24 last year that Berlusconi had given her 7,000 euros ($9,135) to help her through a difficult situation. Berlusconi told journalists last year that he gave her 57,000 euros to help her set up a business and avoid prostituting herself.
Call to Police
Berlusconi has also said he was deceived about El Mahroug’s identity, a misunderstanding that he says prompted his move to contact police about her detention in an unrelated case. Berlusconi referred to El Mahroug as a relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he phoned the police on her behalf, former Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told parliament in 2010.
El Mahroug is not related to Mubarak, and has denied being a prostitute. Nicole Minetti, the Berlusconi protégé who collected El Mahroug from police on her release, told the former premier about the woman’s true identity, he said today. Minetti, 27, is a councillor in the regional government for Berlusconi’s party.
Minetti “told me she was a minor and Moroccan, and the news left me speechless,” Berlusconi told the judges in his statement. “She constructed a second identity, perhaps to cover up her miserable condition.”
Berlusconi, Italy’s most successful politician during the last two decades, is seeking to clear his name as the People of Liberty party he founded faces a crisis of leadership. The so- called PDL, slipping in popularity polls since Berlusconi’s resignation in November, has been beset by unrelated corruption scandals tied its members in the regions of Lazio and Lombardy.
Berlusconi was accompanied today by his lawyers Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo.
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