Tags: berlusconi italy wiretaps

Wiretaps Emerge of Berlusconi's Teenage Friend

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:05 PM

A tabloid tidal wave washed over Italy on Tuesday as newspapers published eye-popping wiretapped conversations from a nightclub dancer who said she had dallied with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as a minor, but whether it would sweep the wily prime minister out to sea was still anyone’s guess, The New York Times reports.

The wiretaps emerged days after prosecutors opened an investigation into Mr. Berlusconi on charges that he compensated Moroccan-born Karima el-Mahroug, nicknamed “Ruby Rubacuori,” or “Ruby Heart-Stealer,” for sex at his villa outside Milan when she was a minor. In wiretaps, Ms. Mahroug said she had been attending parties at Mr. Berlusconi’s villa since she was 16.

Mr. Berlusconi, 74, who denies all wrongdoing and says he did not know Ms. Mahroug was a minor, is also accused of helping to get her released from police custody when she was detained for theft last spring. Now 18, she said she had asked Mr. Berlusconi for 5 million euros, or $6.7 million, to keep quiet, according to wiretaps published Tuesday in the Italian press.

But Ms. Mahroug is apparently only a face in the crowd. Prosecutors said this week that “a significant number” of young women had prostituted themselves to the prime minister, obtaining cash or rent-free housing in exchange for sex. In Italy, where a facade of Roman Catholic morality masks a high tolerance for illicit romance, Mr. Berlusconi has weathered scandals for years.

But this time, with the prime minister facing possible criminal charges and with wiretaps presenting a picture of a sordid world of orgies and of blackmail by call girls, things are beginning to look different. Mr. Berlusconi only narrowly survived two no-confidence votes in mid-December, and could be forced to call new elections if any one of the allies in his shaky coalition pulled out.

Read the entire story at nytimes.com

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berlusconi italy wiretaps
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 12:05 PM
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