Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s political career is in jeopardy in the face of accusations that he had sex with a ‘significant’ number of prostitutes at parties he hosted last year. The media mogul—Berlusconi owns a TV empire and is, according to Forbes, the third richest man in Italy— is also accused of providing apartments for women in exchange for sex at a housing complex he built in Milan in the 1970s before he became premier, the January 17th Guardian reports. Italian opposition parties are calling for Berlusconi to resign over the scandal, today’s New York Times reports.
Berlusconi is already being investigated in a teenage prostitution case, in which he is accused of paying for sex with Karima el-Mahroug, a Moroccan belly dancer known as Ruby Rubacuori, when she was 17. While prostitution is legal in Italy, ‘exploiting or aiding prostitution with minors’ is a crime. El-Mahroug has said that, while the premier gave her euro 7,000 ($9,000) to help her, she did not have sex with him. She has also said that she was ‘among a bevy of young women invited to parties at Berlusconi’s Arcore villa near Milan’; at that time, she said she was 24 years old, so Berlusconi and the others would not know she was a minor. According to information from wiretaps published today in the Italian press, Berlusconi offered el-Mahroug 5 million euros ($6.7 million) to keep quiet
Prosecutors in Milan have accused Berlusconi of abusing his political position as Italy’s prime minister to put pressure on police to cover up his relationship with el-Mahroug.
Berlusconi has denied the accusations. He could face up to 15 years in prison for the alleged offenses. Prosecutors would like to question Berlusconi later this week; he could, though, invoke protection from such in his role as premier.
A number of Berlusconi’s associates allegedly helped him procure the prostitutes including Nicole Minetti, a half-British former showgirl who (according to the January 14th Guardian) became Berlusconi’s dental hygienist and then regional parliamentarian for his Freedom People movement; a longtime executive in Berlusconi’s private TV empire; and a talent agent for entertainment programs.
With his media empire, personal wealth, and political ambitions, Berlusconi has sometimes been compared to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Berlusconi’s entrance into Italian politics as in 1994 was rapid and surrounded with controversy. He became a Member of Parliament for the first time in 1994 and was appointed as Prime Minister following the March 1994 snap parliamentary elections. Berlusconi was separated from his second wife, actress Veronica Lario, in 2009. Lario has cited his ’frequenting of “minors” and “infatuation” with young women’ as the reasons for her ending the marriage—-and the same seem likely to be reasons for the end of Berlusconi’s political career, too.
Photo by Alessio85.
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