Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Silvio Berlusconi to face trail over prostitution
The woman who may yet bring down Silvio Berlusconi was unknown to the world until last year, when her allegations of sex parties first emerged in the Italian press.
According to reports last October, Berlusconi met Karima el-Mahroug, then 17, through Nicole Minetti, a TV showgirl turned dental hygienist who acquired a post in Berlusconi's Freedom People party after catching his eye while cleaning his teeth.
Mahroug revealed to investigators and Italian newspapers last year that she attended "bunga bunga" sex parties at his mansion near Milan. At one of these, according to Mahroug, she sat next to Berlusconi, who later took her upstairs and gave her an envelope containing €7,000. She said he also gave her jewellery, but insisted she had not slept with the 74-year-old prime minister.
"It the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear," she told La Repubblica last year.
Their acquaintance, which Berlusconi may come to regret, came to light after Mahroug was arrested in Milan for allegedly stealing cash. The station commander said she was released after police received a call from the prime minister's office saying – incorrectly – that she was the granddaughter of Egypt's now former president, Hosni Mubarak.
Mahroug had run away from a care home, but instead of being returned to care she was handed over to Minetti, who is already under investigation for aiding and abetting prostitution, with two other close associates of the prime minister – a newscaster on one of his three television channels and a showbusiness talent scout.
Berlusconi does not deny that he sent an aide to secure the girl's release, claiming: "I'm a person of the heart, and I take action whenever there is someone in need of help." .
Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with Mahroug, then used his influence to get her out of police custody. They allege that Berlusconi feared her relationship to him would be revealed.