Postcard from... Milan

 

Over the years any number of things have helped the billionaire mogul and three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi avoid serious convictions. The statute of limitations, the glacial speed of Italian justice and Mr Berlusconi’s own self-serving law changes are obvious examples.

But now it seems even itchy eyes have come to the aid of the shady mogul as he fights sex and corruption charges in the “Rubygate” trial.

Prosecutors this week asked a Milan court to send medical inspectors to check on Mr Berlusconi’s condition after he failed to attend a hearing of the trial into allegations he paid to have sex with belly dancer Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug in 2010 when she was under age, and abused his office to cover it up.

The 76-year-old media magnate was instead being treated at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital for uveitis, an eye condition. The latest hearing was supposed to hear the prosecution’s final arguments. And the verdict, which could in theory deliver a sentence of more than 10 years, might be just weeks away.

Even if found guilty, Mr Berlusconi as a 76-year-old, is almost certain to avoid jail under Italian sentencing laws. But pundits say that he is desperate to avoid such a humiliating conviction, particularly now, as senior politicians jockey for power following Italy’s indecisive general election.

In April last year bank records revealed that Mr Berlusconi had paid a total of €127,000 to three key witnesses shortly after the “Rubygate” trial had begun. It’s not surprising then, that when Mr Berlusconi claims “itchy eyes”, the judges experience itchy chins.

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