'Rubygate' appeal verdict expected on Friday

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Silvio Berlusconi and Moroccan Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby the Heartstealer. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/Giuseppe Aresu/AFP
10:38 CEST+02:00
A verdict on former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s appeal against a jail term for having sex with an underage prostitute and for abuse of power while in office is expected to be given on Friday.

Italian prosecutors last week asked the appeals court to confirm a seven-year prison sentence that was handed down in June last year.

A verdict could come as early as Friday, although a ruling could be appealed again at the Supreme Court, Rai News reported on Tuesday.

Berlusconi was sentenced in what has become known as the "Rubygate" case, which focussed on raunchy parties hosted by Berlusconi at his sprawling villa.

The ageing playboy was found guilty of having sex for money with then 17-year-old exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known by her stage name as Ruby the Heart Stealer.

He was also convicted of putting pressure on police to have her released from custody after she was detained for petty theft, apparently concerned she could reveal their liaison.

Many of the witnesses in the original trial were young women who attended the Berlusconi parties and described them as "elegant dinner parties", prompting prosecutors to look into the possibility of witness tampering.

Others have described the events as little more than orgies, featuring an array of strippers dressed as nuns and politicians and ending up in Berlusconi's bedroom.

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Berlusconi was not present at last Friday’s hearing as the billionaire tycoon is doing community service in an old people's home near Milan for a separate conviction for tax fraud, which also led to his expulsion from parliament.

Neither were his lawyers, who themselves are being investigated for allegedly bribing witnesses during the original trial.

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