The Moroccan woman at the centre of a sex scandal involving former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has testified that a young woman attending one of his “bunga bunga” parties dressed up like a nun, danced provocatively and stripped down to her underwear for the then-premier at his in-house disco.
Karima el-Mahroug gave evidence yesterday in the trial in Milan of three former Berlusconi aides charged with recruiting her and other women for prostitution.
They deny the charges. The trial is separate from one in which Mr Berlusconi himself is charged with paying for sex with a minor and trying to cover it up.
Ms El-Mahroug, known as Ruby, has spoken to the media but has never publicly given sworn testimony. Both she and Mr Berlusconi deny having had sex.
The three Berlusconi aides – Emilio Fede, an executive in Mr Berlusconi’s media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario “Lele” Mora – are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor.
Ms El-Mahroug’s testimony confirmed the sexual atmosphere at Mr Berlusconi’s infamous “bunga bunga” parties, which were filled with beautiful young women. Many of those women have said they received money from the billionaire media mogul.
Dressed soberly with her hair pulled back, Ms El-Mahroug said she first made contact with Mr Berlusconi’s inner circle when she participated in a beauty contest organized by Fede in Sicily when she was 16.
After that she made her way to Milan, hoping to find work. She said she tried to get work through another defendant’s talent agency but wound up landing a job as a hostess in nightclubs, earning around E100 (£85) a night.
Eventually, she ran into Fede at a restaurant, where she reminded him of his promise in Sicily to help her. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a dinner party – at Mr Berlusconi’s villa outside Milan.
She testified that she met the premier that night – on Valentine’s Day in 2010 – and that he gave her an envelope of E2,000 to E3,000 (£1,700 to £1,970), saying it was “a little help” and asking for her telephone number, which she gave him.
At that party, she said, she introduced herself as Ruby and told other guests a fake tale that she was Egyptian, that her mother was a famous Arab singer and that she was related to then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She was 17 at the time but had passed herself off as being 24.
Ms El-Mahroug confirmed what other witnesses have testified previously: that at some of the soirees, young female party guests had dressed up like nuns and danced for Mr Berlusconi and then stripped down to their underwear.
She said Minetti, one of the defendants, had dressed up like a nun at that February 14 party and lifted her costume to show off her legs as she danced in Mr Berlusconi’s in-house disco, which was outfitted with a lap-dance pole.
Ms El-Mahroug demonstrated from her seat how Minetti had raised her hemline. She said Minetti eventually took off her costume and was in just her lingerie.
She said other girls dressed up as President Barack Obama and a Milan magistrate who is leading the prosecution against Mr Berlusconi in the sex scandal.
“The girls who were dressed in costumes approached him in a sensual way as they danced. They raised their skirts,” she testified. She added: “I never saw contact.”
Ms El-Mahroug said she visited Mr Berlusconi’s mansion, Arcore, a half-dozen times, and that each time she was given an envelope with money, always in E500 (£425 each). The second evening she went she said she was given around E2,000 (£1,300).
Prosecutors in Mr Berlusconi’s separate trial have said her testimony is unreliable and are relying on her sworn statements. The defence had initially called her as a witness, but then didn’t call her. That trial is nearing a verdict.