Prosecutors accuse the former premier, 79, of perverting the course of justice by allegedly paying dancers and society girls some ten million euros for their silence over what went on at his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties.
He is suspected of showering them with cash gifts and presents to buy their testimony in the run-up to and during his trial for paying for sex with dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known as Ruby the heart stealer, when she was under 18.
The media magnate was cleared of that charge last year but prosecutors are pressing ahead with a new corruption trial involving Berlusconi and 30 other people connected to the “exotic dinners” he held at his various lavish properties. Preliminary hearing judge Anna Laura Marchiondelli split the trial between seven courts: Milan will deal with the majority of the accused, while courts in Monza, Pescara, Rome, Siena, Treviso and Turin will focus on single cases.
Marchiondelli’s ruling said each charge must be dealt with in the cities where the alleged corruption first took place. In the Bunga Bunga trial, Ruby testified she had not had sex with the tycoon, claiming she had lied on a wiretap in which she was heard telling friends she had.
Other witnesses allegedly received a further three million euros worth of enticements to keep quiet, including girls who were plied with gifts, put up in apartments and had their rent paid for as well as receiving a living allowance.
Pescara has been sent the file on ex-weather girl Miriam Loddo. Monza has that of Aris Espinoa, who said Berlusconi nicknamed her his “naughty girl”, and Elisa Toti, whose mother was caught in a phone tap asking how much money the magnate had given her.
The former premier is an old hat at legal cases. He was convicted in 2014 of major corporate tax fraud but was allowed to serve a community service order helping old people rather than go to jail. He suffered a fresh legal blow last July when a Naples court sentenced him to three years for bribing a senator, but he escaped doing time because of legal technicalities.