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Berlusconi aides sentenced for recruiting ‘bunga bunga’ prostitutes

LONDON -- Three associates of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi were found guilty Friday of procuring prostitutes for the notorious “bunga bunga” parties he threw at his mansion in Milan, adding to the billionaire politician’s legal embarrassments.

Two of the aides, Dario “Lele” Mora and Emilio Fede, were sentenced to seven years in prison for aiding and abetting prostitution. The third, Nicole Minetti, a former showgirl whom Berlusconi helped win political office, was given a six-year sentence. All three are expected to remain free while they appeal.

Berlusconi was not himself on trial in the Milan courtroom, but the guilty verdicts against his underlings are a further blow to his reputation on top of his own conviction last month of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex at one of his raunchy gatherings and abusing his position as prime minister to try to cover it up.

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The former leader was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from public office, but those penalties remain suspended while he appeals the conviction.

In addition, he faces a final court ruling later this month on his appeal of a guilty verdict in a fraud case involving his media empire. If Italy’s high court upholds the conviction, Berlusconi, 76, would face four years behind bars and a five-year ban on holding office. Such a decision could imperil Italy’s fragile coalition government, which depends on the support of Berlusconi’s center-right party.

Mora, Fede and Minetti were accused of recruiting young women to dance and have sex with guests at the former premier’s parties. Although adult prostitution is legal in Italy, pandering is not.

The three denied the charges. Berlusconi has said that the gatherings at his home were nothing more than elegant affairs featuring wholesome after-dinner entertainment.

Among the young women introduced at the parties was Karima el Mahroug, a Moroccan-born teenager who danced under the name “Ruby the Heart-Stealer.” Berlusconi was found guilty last month of paying her to sleep with him -- a crime because she was a minor -- but both of them denied having sex.

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henry.chu@latimes.com

Twitter: @HenryHChu


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