An Italian court convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of paying a prostitute for sex during infamous “bunga bunga” parties at his villa and then using his high post to try to hide it.
The politician, 76, was sentenced to seven years in jail and barred from public office for ever– a sentence that could mean the end of his two-decade political career.
However, the media tycoon will not have to serve any prison time before he has exhausted an appeals process that could take years, but the conviction angered members of his centre-right party who questioned whether the politician should continue to support the coalition.
Berlusconi expressed outrage at the verdict which he said was politically motivated, reports Reuters.
“An incredible sentence has been issued of a violence never seen or heard of before, to try to eliminate me from the political life of this country,” Berlusconi said in a statement.
“Yet again I intend to resist against this persecution because I am absolutely innocent and I don’t want in any way to abandon my battle to make Italy a country that is truly free and just.”
The former Italy’s Prime Minister insisted numerous times that the parties were nothing more than “elegant dinners” at which he crooned sentimental love songs and regaled his female guests with anecdotes.
According to Berlusconi, they involved the young women, who were “by their nature exhibitionists”, performing “burlesque contests” which he conceded he watched with “great interest”.
The media tycoon was accused of paying enormous summs of euros for sex with a Moroccan-born erotic dancer, Karima El Mahroug, who called herself “Ruby the Heart Stealer” and who was just 17 at the moment.
Italian law claims it is illegal to pay for sex with a woman under the age of 18. Silvio Berlusconi insisted that the woman had told him she was 24.
During the investigation process, the dancer denied having sex with the former Italian Prime Minister, but in an intercepted phone call she told a friend, Caterina Pasquino: “I’m at Berlusconi’s, I’ll dance, then I’ll strip, then I’ll have sex.” She later said she had been joking.
The three-time prime minister and owner of AC Milan was also accused of abusing his political power by putting pressure on Milan police to release the girl after she was arrested on charges of stealing money and jewellery from her flatmate.
It took the judges 7 hours to deliver the verdict having questioned around 30 witnesses in the case, including Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Archi, who is reportedly accused for perjury for their testimony in favor of Berlusconi.
The case is directed to Italy’s highest court for a final appeal after Berlusconi’s defense failed to derail it last week at the constitutional court.
The former Prime Minister has been convicted in other cases at the trial level. But those convictions have always either been overturned on appeal or the statute of limitations has run out before Italy’s high court could have its say.