Silvio Berlusconi convicted of sex with underage prostitute

Monday, June 24, 2013

Silvio Berlusconi in 2010.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was convicted today of having sex with an underage prostitute. He has been sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from serving in public office, but does not start his sentence until an appeal process is concluded.

Berlusconi was charged with paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a Moroccan-born nightclub dancer who performs under the name 'Ruby Rubacuori' — Ruby the Heartstealer. Prosecutors say El Mahroug had sex with Berlusconi when she was aged 17. She denies having sex with Berlusconi. El Mahroug admits having received thousands of euros from Berlusconi.

In addition to the sex charges, Berlusconi was found guilty of abusing his office when dealing with El Mahroug. The court found that in May 2010, Berlusconi put pressure on police officers in Milan to release El Mahroug who had been arrested on suspicion of theft. Berlusconi claims that he telephoned the police but did so on the belief that El Mahroug was related to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in order to prevent a diplomatic incident.

Prosecutors alleged that El Mahroug was just one of many women Berlusconi had paid for sex with and that she formed part of "a prostitution system set up for the personal sexual satisfaction of the defendant".

In May of this year, an Italian appeals court upheld a conviction for tax fraud which Berlusconi is in the process of appealing to the country's highest appellate court, the Court of Cassation. If the decision is upheld by the higher court, he will be liable to serve four years in prison for the tax fraud offense, where Berlusconi was found to have bought distribution rights for American films and resold them at inflated prices to reduce the tax liability of Mediaset, Berlusconi's media company which owns the three largest television stations in Italy.

Berlusconi is head of the People of Freedom party, a centre-right party that forms part of Italy's coalition government.