ROME -- The Moroccan-born dancer at the center of Silvio Berlusconi’s prostitution trial took the stand in court for the first time Friday, describing how female guests at Berlusconi’s so-called bunga-bunga parties stripped to their underwear and dressed up as nuns, nurses and even Barack Obama.
Karima el Mahroug, better known by her stage name Ruby the Heartstealer, was giving evidence at the trial of three associates of the former Italian prime minister who are accused of procuring prostitutes for him. Berlusconi is on trial separately on charges of paying Mahroug for sex when she was 17, a crime in Italy, as well as trying to cover up the alleged crime.
During six hours of testimony, Mahroug said that Nicole Minetti, a regional councilor who is one of the accused, dressed as a nun at a party at Berlusconi’s mansion near Milan before stripping to her underwear. Marystelle Polanco, a model, dressed as Obama and Ilda Boccassini, the magistrate who has since brought Berlusconi to trial, Mahroug said.
“The girls came close to him in a sensual way, raising their skirts,” she recalled.
Mahroug’s account contrasts with a carefully packaged, two-hour program broadcast Sunday on one of Berlusconi’s TV channels during which the 76-year-old media mogul claimed that “nothing happened that could be defined as incorrect or embarrassing” at his dinners. He also denied having sex with Mahroug.
Mahroug told the court she received an envelope containing 2,000 euros (about $2,500) at the end of her first evening at Berlusconi’s house in 2010, and was given 2,000 to 3,000 euros, always in 500-euro notes, after every successive party she attended.
After telling Berlusconi of her dream of opening a health center, she said, she was handed 30,000 euros by Giuseppe Spinelli, the accountant entrusted by Berlusconi to make regular payments to his stable of young female party guests.
But Mahroug denied having sex with Berlusconi and told the court that during the stripteases, Berlusconi never touched his guests.
At her first party, she said, she told Berlusconi her mother was a singer who was related to former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, and she claimed to be 24.
In court, Magistrate Antonio Sangermano asked why Mahroug told a friend in a phone conversation wiretapped in 2010 that she had denied to investigators “the fact that Silvio knows I am a minor.”
“I told lies; for me lies were an automatic defense mechanism with everyone,” she said.
Asked by Sangermano about boasts she made at the time of an offer of 4.5 million euros from Berlusconi, allegedly to keep quiet about their relationship, she said she had again lied.
Sangermano persisted, asking why she had written the figure down on a note found by investigators if it was just a boast.
“If it was true I would have had no need to write this number on a piece of paper,” she said. “I would have remembered it. I did it only to show off.”
Mahroug will return to court in Milan on May 24 to give further testimony. Boccassini has meanwhile asked judges that Berlusconi, if convicted, receive a six-year sentence and be permanently barred from holding public office.
Berlusconi is also waiting to hear if Italy’s Supreme Court will uphold his four-year sentence for tax evasion. Magistrates in Naples, meanwhile, are seeking to put him on trial for allegedly bribing a member of parliament to switch parties.