Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


'Ruby the Heart Stealer' maintains innocence and denies sexual relations with Silvio Berlusconi

Former belly dancer Karima El Mahroug says allegations against her and 76-year-old former premier are untrue

Karima "Ruby" El Mahroug, the young woman whom prosecutors say received money from ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in exchange for sex, has protested her innocence outside Milan’s criminal courts.

Denied her chance of speaking on the witness stand, an emotional Ms El Mahroug told the waiting media scrum this morning that she had never had sexual relations with the 76-year-old media mogul.

Mr Berlusconi is on trial accused of paying for sex with Ms El Mahroug when she was 17 — and under age, and then abusing his power of office to cover it up.

Ms El Mahroug, a former bellydancer with the stage name “Ruby the Heart Stealer", said she had suffered "psychological torture" at the hands of magistrates and the media, who had sought to attack Mr Berlusconi by muddying her name.

As a result of this campaign, she said, reading from a prepared statement: “Many people regard me as a prostitute even if this trial has shown exactly the opposite is true.” 

The trial verdict, which is overdue, has most recently been postponed while Mr Berlusconi’s lawyers appeal to the Supreme Court for proceedings to be moved to another northern city, Brescia, where they say the mogul is more likely to receive a fair trial. The tycoon claims he is being victimised by Milan’s “communist magistrates”.

Ms El Mahroug, this morning apologised, however, for having pretended to be the granddaughter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, in an apparent attempt to absolve Mr Berlusconi of the most serious charge he faces – that of abuse of office.

In 2010 when the then Prime Minister telephoned Milan police headquarters after Ms El Mahroug had been arrested for suspected theft, he said the detainee was the granddaughter of the Egyptian leader and asked for her to be released.

Milan's juvenile crime magistrate Annamaria Fiorillo later insisted that she had not given her permission for the release of the girl. She said she had told police at the time: ”If she's the granddaughter of President Mubarak then I'm Queen Nefertiti.“