Minetti: ‘I was in love with Silvio Berlusconi’

Nicole Minetti, the ex-regional councillor accused of supplying women to Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’ parties, has denied the accusations and said she felt “true love” for the ex-prime minister.

Minetti: 'I was in love with Silvio Berlusconi'
Nicole Minetti (L) in 2011. Photo: STR/AFP. Karima El Mahroug (R). Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

She made her surprise declaration of love for Berlusconi as the trial in which he is accused of paying for sex with an alleged underage prostitute, Karima El-Mahroug, known as “Ruby the heart stealer”, was reaching its final stages.

Nicole Minetti, a former Lombardy regional councillor and aspiring showgirl who also worked as Berlusconi’s dental hygienist is accused of supplying women to Berlusconi at his residence in Milan for the so-called "bunga bunga" sex parties. Prosecutors have also accused her of “performing sexual acts for payment”.

Minetti is on trial alongside Emilio Fede and Lele Mora, two elderly colleagues of Berlusconi who are also accused of supplying women to the ex-prime minister. Prosecutors allege that Fede brought El-Mahroug to the parties. All deny the charges.

Speaking in court on Friday morning, Minetti said she had never “introduced” women to Berlusconi at his residence nor organized any of the so-called "bunga bunga" parties.

She had first met Berlusconi, she said, at a show where she was working as a hostess. From then on “a friendship was born, and then a love affair that was over by the end of the year.”  

“I want to point out that I felt true love for Silvio Berlusconi,” she added.

Minetti said the trial, known as “Ruby 2” in the Italian press, was based on “ill-concealed moralism”.

“I hope that someone one day can explain to me what I did. The facts in question are considerably distant from what happened,” she said.

On Monday, Silvio Berlusconi’s defence team asked that the ex-prime minister be acquitted on charges of having sex with alleged underage prostitute El-Mahroug and abuse of office.

“Silvio Berlusconi must be acquitted because he has committed no crime,” Berlusconi’s defence lawyer Niccolo Ghedini told the court on Monday.

Berlusconi’s decision to give El-Mahroug money, he said, had been a “humane” gesture and he had believed her to be related to the then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident.   

The trial, which has already been going on for over two years, is expected to conclude on June 24th.

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Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

Italy on Thursday night approved new measures worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion) to help families and businesses manage the surging cost of fuel and essentials.

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

As expected, the final version of the ‘aiuti-bis‘ decree provides another extension to the existing 30-cents-per-litre cut to fuel duty, more help with energy bills, and a tax cut for workers earning under 35,000 euros a year.

The package also includes further funding for mental health treatment: there’s another 15 million euros for the recently-introduced ‘psychologist bonus’ on top of the 10 million previously allocated.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

There are also measures to help agricultural firms deal with this year’s severe drought.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the new package as an intervention “of incredible proportions”, which corresponds to “a little over 2 points of national GDP”.

However, he said, no changes were made to the national budget to pave the way for the new measures.

The measures will be funded with 14.3 billion euros in higher-than-expected tax revenues this year, and the deployment of funds that have not yet been spent, Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco said.

Italy has already budgeted some 35 billion euros since January to soften the impact of rising fuel costs.

The decree is one of the last major acts by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

Elections are set for September 25th but the former European Central Bank chief is staying on in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

Draghi said the Italian economy was performing better than expected, citing the International Monetary Fund’s estimate of three percent for 2022.

“They say that in 2022, we will grow more than Germany, than France, than the average of the eurozone, more than the United States,” he told a press conference.

But he noted the many problems facing Italy, “from the high cost of living, to inflation, the rise in energy prices and other materials, to supply difficulties, widespread insecurity and, of course political insecurity”.

Inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.