Berlusconi absence sees 'Rubygate' sex trial adjourned after just nine minutes

After the breathless build-up, Silvio Berlusconi's hotly anticipated "Rubygate" sex trial came to a premature halt yesterday after just nine minutes – rather less time than it took for one of the Italian Prime Minister's alleged "bunga bunga" sessions.

"Is that it?" gasped a surprised Canadian journalist on my right, when at 9.45am Judge Giulia Turri declared the trial, in the Fascist-era court building, postponed until 31 May. This is the next date for which the premier has indicated he will be free to appear in person and begin defending himself against the lurid sex and corruption charges.

"Berlusconi intends to follow all the hearings of this trial," one of his defence team, Giorgio Perroni, said immediately after the adjournment. "But obviously, institutional engagements may arise and sometimes he will not be able to attend." Yesterday, he cited an emergency cabinet meeting on the Libyan crisis as the reason.

While time is running out for other trials in which Mr Berlusconi faces charges of bribery and tax evasion, the prosecutors know for the "Rubygate" process, with the alleged crimes occurring less than a year ago, the statute of limitations should not be a factor.

Mr Berlusconi denies paying to have sex with the Moroccan belly dancer Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, before she was 18. He also rejects charges that he abused his powers to have her released from police custody when she was held for a suspected theft last May. The trial's outcome will hinge on whether the mountain of testimonies and wiretaps – involving Mr Berlusconi, his associates and young female friends – are sufficient to convince the three-woman judging panel of his guilt. Yesterday fresh prosecution leaks suggested Mr Berlusconi contacted Ms Mahroug with texts or phone calls 53 times in three months last year.

But significantly, Ms Mahroug's lawyer, Paolo Boccardi, appeared in court to tell journalists that her client did not intend to become a civil complainant in the trial, despite rumours to the contrary.

Had Ms Mahroug made such a request it would have been possible for her to claim significant damages were Mr Berlusconi found guilty. But this would have in effect been an admission that she had prostituted herself – a development that would have cast a cloud over the Prime Minister's defence.

Ms Boccardi, a media star in the making who glowed in a pale-rose coat and tastefully dyed hair, denied vehemently that any sort of pressure had been put on her client to stop her from becoming a civil complainant.

But she added that Ms Mahroug's reputation had "suffered clear and serious damage" from the media coverage which meant that now "men stopped her in the street and asked her to perform bunga bunga".

She brushed aside questions as to why Ms Mahroug had received huge amounts of money at Mr Berlusconi's parties if not for sex.

But if she was playing ball, rumours in the Italian press suggested key Berlusconi associates might prove less trustworthy when they take the stand. In particular, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said there were fears in Mr Berlusconi's camp that an improbable list of bit-part characters accused of pimping for the premier – including a television newsreader, his former dental hygienist and a seedy impresario – were considering plea-bargains.

The dental hygienist, Nicole Minetti, is considered the most likely of the three to turn. She has been recorded while describing Mr Berlusconi as "a piece of shit... just out to save his flabby arse".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor