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Italian PM Berlusconi in another legal battle

By Peter Natov
Published: March 2011

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has found himself in yet another legal battle. This time, Berlusconi faces an indictment for paying for sex with the underage Moroccan nightclub belly dancer Karima el Mahroug, also known as Ruby Rubacuori, or “Ruby the Heart-Stealer.”
Reports of a sexual liaison between Berlusconi and Mahroug arose after she was arrested in May 2010 for theft.
Berlusconi called the head of the Milan police department and pressed for her release, claiming that Mahroug was the granddaughter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and that a diplomatic crisis would arise if she were not let go, which she was.
Both the 74-year-old Berlusconi and the now 18-year-old Mahroug deny having sex with each other, but Mahroug has admitted that she attended sex parties at Berlusconi’s mansion outside of Milan.
She claims that during one of the parties she met Berlusconi, who brought her upstairs to give her €7,000 and some jewelry.
Now Berlusconi is set to face a trial for paying for sex with an underage girl (Mahroug was 17 at the time) and for abusing his power as prime minister to win Mahroug’s release from custody.
Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, says that Berlusconi plans to attend all of the trials in the upcoming months. The prime minister and his lawyer deny all allegations and claim the trial is politically motivated.
The trial, however, not only concerns the allegation of sex with an underage girl, but also two other charges: one of bribery and one of corruption.
Silvio Berlusconi has been elected prime minister on three separate occasions, first serving in 1994, then from 2001 to 2006, and most recently since 2008.
Founding his own political party, Forza Italia, or “Go Italy,” in 1993, Berlusconi became the Italian Prime Minister a year later, serving for six months.
Leading a center-right party, Berlusconi attempted to forge a powerful right-wing alliance in order to dominate Italian politics, but was unsuccessful. His coalition collapsed after only seven months in office as he faced accusations of tax fraud in Milan.
Listed as the 74th richest man in the world by Forbes magazine, Berlusconi has a net worth of over $9 billion from his business successes.
Owner of A.C. Milan, one of the most prestigious soccer clubs in the world, Berlusconi has amassed his wealth by working in the television, newspaper, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, and insurance industries. His company Mediaset broadcasts three television channels, half of the Italian television market.
The trial that Berlusconi will face later this year will not be his first. Since he entered politics 17 years ago, he has received numerous accusations of corruption, bribery, embezzlement, tax fraud, false accounting, attempting to bribe a judge, and other crimes.
Berlusconi claims to be the victim of the Italian judicial authorities and estimates that he has made over 2,500 court appearances in 106 different trials. Through it all, he has denied the accusations and has never been convicted of anything serious.
Although Berlusconi has evaded accusations in the past, the trial he will face in the coming months may finally end his reign as prime minister.
Other blights on his reputation, including his alleged links to the Italian mafia, his support of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and his attempts at reconciliation with Libyan despot Muammar Qaddafi, may finally be catching up with him.
Politicians and regular Italians are increasingly suggesting that his crimes are both an embarrassment for and a danger to Italy.

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