Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyer today said prosecutors were in cahoots with judges, in an apparent attempt to embarrass a Milan court into absolving the ex-premier of sex and corruption charges in the so-called bunga bunga affair.
Prosecutors have called for the tycoon to get six years in prison for allegedly paying for sex with the exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug - nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer” - when she was under age, and for abusing his powers to cover up the act.
Mr Berlusconi denies all charges and says he is the victim of a witch hunt by left-wing magistrates. With the verdict fast approaching, coming possibly on June 24, his defence stepped up its attack on the credibility of the process in this morning’s closing arguments.
His lawyer Niccolo Ghedini, who is also an MP in Mr Berlusconi’s conservative PDL (People of Freedom) party, said: ”Rightly or wrongly, we consider the court prejudiced.
“In the course of this trial, I’ve had the feeling that I’ve caused irritation among the judges,” he said. “The state prosecutor has not appeared to cause the same annoyance.” He then added that the prosecutors and judges shared a “cultural closeness”.
Mr Ghedini said the allegations by prosecutors and their calls for a six-year sentence and lifetime ban on holding public office were "stratospheric and extraordinary."
The prosecution claims that Mr Berlusconi’s "bunga bunga" dinner parties in his Arcore home near Milan, attended by Ms El-Mahroug in 2010 when she was 17, regularly degenerated into paid-for sex sessions.
The media mogul, 76, insists the events were merely “refined and elegant parties”. Mr Ghedini said today that the much-publicised payments — often consisting of envelopes stuffed with thousands of euros — to young women attending the soirees, amounted to “economic assistance” and not payments for sex.
Some of the participants have told the Milan trial, however, that young women dressed as nuns, stripped and fondled each other in front of the three-time Italian premier.
Records of bank transactions have revealed that Mr Berlusconi paid a total of €127,000 to three key witnesses shortly after the ”Rubygate“ trial began.
In his closing arguments Mr Ghedini also denied that Mr Berlusconi had abused his power of office, when on the night of May 27 2010, the mogul called Milan police headquarters, apparently seeking the release of Ms El-Mahroug who had been held for suspected theft. A recorded phone call revealed Mr Berlusconi erroneously telling a police officer that the dancer was the granddaughter of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Last week in a separate trial, dubbed “Ruby-B”, prosecutors called on judges to hand out six-year sentence to three of Mr Berlusconi’s cronies, Nicole Minette, his former dental hygienist-turned PDL councillor; Emilio Fede the obsequious former news reader on Mr Berlusconi’s Rete 4 TV channel and the shady impresario Lele Mora. All three are accused of pimping and facilitating under-age prostitution in relation to Mr Berlusconi’s adult soirees.
Mr Berlusconi said on Friday: ”The arguments used by the Milan prosecutors about what allegedly happened at my house in the trial of Minetti, Mora, Fede are further from the truth than it is possible to imagine.
“The fantasy of the prosecution truly appears to be boundless and it is approaching judicial pathology.”