Silvio Berlusconi rocked by underage scandal
AN account by an underage nightclub dancer of an alleged erotic after-dinner party at Silvio Berlusconi’s home has plunged the Italian prime minister into a damaging new scandal over his private life.
Berlusconi, 74, is reported to have invited Karima Keyek, 17 – better known as Ruby – to three parties at his opulent villa near Milan earlier this year and to have showered her with presents of cash, jewellery and an Audi sports car.
Ruby, a 5ft 10in Moroccan, has testified that one of these parties included “bunga-bunga” – a form of orgy.
The phrase has become the butt of jokes and ridicule on the internet. The party supposedly featured a naked Berlusconi and 20 female guests, also naked. Ruby has denied having sex with the prime minister and said that she lied to him about her age.
Although he has weathered previous scandals, this case comes at a vulnerable time for the prime minister. He has been weakened by corruption investigations into government ministers and his coalition is at the mercy of a breakaway by his former ally, Gianfranco Fini, which could rob him of his parliamentary majority. His government’s approval rating was only 30 even before the latest allegations.
The scandal broke last week when Italian newspapers leaked Ruby’s testimony to prosecutors, who have placed three acquaintances of Berlusconi under investigation on suspicion of abetting prostitution. They are Emilio Fede, a newscaster on one of the prime minister’s television channels; Lele Mora, a hairdresser turned show business agent; and Nicole Minetti, a showgirl turned regional councillor.
The daughter of a Moroccan street vendor, Ruby fled her home in Sicily aged 14. She has claimed that her Muslim father beat her because she wanted to be a Catholic like her friends.
In her account to prosecutors this summer, revealed by La Repubblica, the Rome newspaper, Ruby said she first met Fede at a local beauty contest a year ago and he sent her to Mora, who found her work as a dancer in a Milan nightclub.
On Valentine’s Day, Fede allegedly drove her to Berlusconi’s Villa San Martino. She was greeted by a “very courteous” Berlusconi and called him “Silvio”, although he preferred to be called “Papi”.
Berlusconi and Fede were reportedly the only men present. Ruby has named the 20 or so female guests but the names have yet to emerge. They are believed to include two government ministers, television presenters, showgirls and prostitutes. She left after dinner with a black and white dress with Swarovski crystals, designed by Valentino, which she says Berlusconi had given her.
The following month Ruby returned to the villa, again with Fede. Berlusconi is said to have asked her to stay the night and, she claimed, showed her an Audi R8 parked outside. “It’s for you,” he told her.
After dinner came “bunga-bunga” which she reportedly described so graphically – “what was being done and who was doing it” – that she astonished the prosecutors. “Silvio told me that he’d copied that formula from Muammar Gadaffi [the Libyan leader]. It’s a ritual of his African harem,” Ruby said.
She claimed she was the only one who remained clothed among the participants, which again included famous names. She said she just watched while serving Berlusconi a non-alcoholic aperitif.
Afterwards, all the women went for a swim in the indoor swimming pool. Ruby changed into a white top and matching shorts, which Berlusconi gave her, and then lowered herself into a Jacuzzi.
The third time Ruby went to the villa her fellow guests on a quiet night were said to have included George Clooney and his girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis, according to La Repubblica.
Fede has said that he had “perhaps” seen Ruby a couple of times at dinners at the villa and denied any wrongdoing.
A business associate of Berlusconi reportedly paid Ruby after each of her visits. The prime minister, she claims, suggested that she pass herself off as the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.
The investigation is also focusing on the night of May 27 this year, when Berlusconi is alleged to have insisted that Milan police release Ruby after she was detained on suspicion of stealing pounds 2,600 from a girl in a nightclub.
His office allegedly told the police that she was Mubarak’s granddaughter. Ruby was handed over to Minetti, who was said to have been sent by Berlusconi to fetch her. Berlusconi has dismissed the latest scandal as “trash”, saying: “I’ve got a heart and I always help those who need help. I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.”
His previous scandals have included his attendance at the 18th birthday party of Noemi Letizia, an aspiring model, which helped prompt Veronica Lario, his wife, to demand a divorce, stating that he “frequents underage girls”.
Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the opposition Democratic party, has protested against what he called Berlusconi’s “peculiar habits” and demanded his resignation. “There must be thousands of people detained in the police stations … What’s he doing, is he abandoning them?” Bersani said.
In a statement released by her lawyer, Ruby, who turns 18 on Tuesday, said: “My account has been manipulated, it’s unfair to ruin me like this.” She added: “I don’t repudiate anything I’ve done, if I hadn’t followed that path I wouldn’t be the Ruby of today.”