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Italian prosecutors seek six-year jail term for Berlusconi in ‘Ruby ter’ trial

Italy’s billionaire former premier Silvio Berlusconi is once instead again facing the threat of criminal sanction over his notorious ‘bunga-bunga’ sex parties.

Italian prosecutors seek six-year jail term for Berlusconi in 'Ruby ter' trial
Silvio Berlusconi pictured in 2013 and Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby the Heartstealer. Photo by GIUSEPPE ARESU and FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP FILES / AFP

Milan prosecutors on Wednesday requested six years in jail for the 85-year-old for allegedly paying guests to lie about the parties in the third instalment of the so-called ‘Ruby’ affair, named after the underage exotic dancer at the centre of the case.

Berlusconi denies wrongdoing, and even if convicted has little chance of going to jail due to a long appeals process and restrictions against imprisoning the elderly.

Around 20 former guests of the infamous parties at Berlusconi’s mansion near Milan are also on trial, accused of accepting money and gifts from the media mogul in return for their silence.

Young women who attended would later describe the events as sex parties, but Berlusconi always insisted they were nothing more than elegant, “convivial” dinners.

“These young women were assured that they would be OK both in terms of income, with a 2,500-euro ($2,677) monthly payment, and for a roof, a house, accommodation,” prosecutor Luca Gaglio told the court in his summing up on Wednesday.

Previously, fellow prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano accused Berlusconi of hiring “sex slaves”.

READ ALSO: ‘Deeply disappointed’: Italy’s Berlusconi breaks silence over friend Putin

Berlusconi’s lawyers insist payments amounting to millions of euros were compensation for the reputational damage suffered by the women from the scandal.

The former prime minister is among 29 people accused in the trial, including Karima El-Mahroug, the Moroccan teenager and dancer who used the name “Ruby”, for whom prosecutors asked for five years in jail.

The verdict is expected in the autumn.

The investigations date back to El-Mahroug’s arrest for theft in 2010 – and Berlusconi’s intervention for police to release her.

Each time, Berlusconi has emerged victorious – eventually.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013 for paying for sex with El-Mahroug, but the verdict was overturned on appeal after the judge said there was reasonable doubt he knew she was underage.

Former Italian Prime Minister and leader of the Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi during a rally in Rome on March 9, 2022. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

A second trial, named “Ruby-bis” (Ruby Two), ended in jail terms for Berlusconi’s close allies for supplying young prostitutes.

The Ruby-ter (Ruby Three) trials are spread out across several Italian cities, including in Siena, where Berlusconi was cleared last October of bribing a piano player to lie about the parties.

Berlusconi and his allies have long claimed the extensive legal proceedings against him in recent decades – he claimed in 2021 he had gone through 86 trials – are politically motivated.

He has never spent any time behind bars but in 2013, with his first definitive conviction for tax fraud, he carried out community service in a care home for Alzheimer’s patients.

Berlusconi was prime minister three times between 1994 and 2011 and remains active in politics, although his career is reaching its twilight.

He most recently made headlines with a failed bid to become president in January.

His Forza Italia party is part of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition government but is languishing in the polls.

He has also been plagued by health problems, saying he almost died after being hospitalised with coronavirus in September 2020.

After recovering in hospital, he famously told reporters: “Once again, I got away with it”.

Last year, he was again hospitalised in Milan and Monaco, reportedly due to problems with his heart, a fall at home, and the after-effects of Covid.

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COST OF LIVING

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.

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