Belly-dancer of the ball: Ruby dazzles Vienna

The television cameras were told to ignore her, and Austria's rich and powerful sought to avoid her. But amid all the bling on display at the Vienna Opera Ball, most eyes were still on one particular jewel – Ruby.

With Ruby, aka Karima el-Mahroug, at the centre of the scandal plaguing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, her appearance at the Austrian ball, as a guest of millionaire Richard Lugner, 78, was a sensation most of the wealthy and influential guests could have done without.

State television was initially ordered to avoid covering her. But it seemed that she was hard to keep out of sight – let alone, out of mind. "I can't waltz," she told reporters, before pausing for effect, and adding with a smile: "I can only belly-dance."

For centuries, Vienna's high society has waltzed through wars, recessions and firebomb-throwing anarchists opposed to the moneyed decadence they think such events represent, but it has never before had to deal with an 18-year-old dancer caught up in sex claims with a Prime Minister.