- The Guardian, Monday 24 June 2013 11.52 EDT
After more than 26 months, 50 court hearings and countless breathless column inches from journalists worldwide, it took just four minutes for the sentence that Silvio Berlusconi had feared to be delivered. At 5.19pm, before a fascist-era sculpture showing two men struck down by a towering figure, the judges swept into the courtroom and pronounced their damning verdict for Italy‘s longest-serving postwar prime minister. By 5.23pm, it was all over.
At the culmination of a trial that helped strike the final nail in the coffin of the playboy politician’s international reputation, the judges found Berlusconi guilty both of paying for sex with the underage prostitute nicknamed Ruby Heartstealer and abusing his office to cover it up. They even went beyond the prosecutors’ sentencing requests, ordering him to serve seven – rather than six – years in prison and face a lifetime ban on holding public office.
Perhaps fittingly for a case that cast a spotlight on the murky nexus of sex and power that prosecutors argued was at the heart of his premiership – in which young women were procured, they said, “for the personal sexual satisfaction” of the billionaire septuagenarian – all three judges were female.
Berlusconi, who had been predicting the verdict for weeks as the logical result of his lifelong “persecution” by leftwing prosecutors, has always denied the charges and now has the right to lodge not one but two appeals. The sentence will be enforced only if these fail and it is made definitive, a process that could take years. Regardless of whether it is eventually upheld, Berlusconi is highly unlikely ever to go to jail.
There were some notable absentees in court on Monday: Ilda Boccassini, the formidable prosecutor who had led the case against the 76-year-old, and Karima el-Mahroug, the former nightclub dancer from Morocco whom Berlusconi was convicted of paying for sex in 2010 when she was 17, below the legal age of prostitution in Italy. Both he and she denied having “intimate relations” and claimed the thousands of euros he gave her were simply the support of a generous friend.
Silvio Berlusconi Sentenced to 7 years in Jail For Paying For Sex With an Underage Prostitute
Published on Jun 24, 2013
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi claims he is “utterly innocent” after being found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
The 76-year-old was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from holding public office by a panel of three judges in Milan.
He previously denied having sex with Karima El Mahroug, also known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, after what prosecutors claimed were erotic “bunga bunga” parties at his lavish villa in 2010.
“I was truly convinced I would be absolved because there was absolutely no possibility of being found guilty based on the evidence,” he said.
“I intend to resist the persecution because I am absolutely innocent and I don’t want to abandon my fight to make Italy a truly free and just country.”
During his trial, the court heard dozens of young women, including Miss El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time, were paid with cash, money and cars to attend Berlusconi’s parties and dance semi-naked for him.
Berlusconi was also found guilty of abuse of office by arranging to have Miss El Mahroug, now 19, released from police custody when she was arrested on suspicion of theft.
His defence claimed he believed the dancer was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident.
His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, confirmed an appeal would be lodged, describing the sentence as “beyond reality” and “completely illogical”.
“The judges even went beyond the prosecutors’ request (for a six-year sentence),” he added.
Berlusconi has always insisted he is being persecuted by judges as part of a political plot.
Even before judge Giulia Turri and her two female assistants returned their guilty verdicts, he told friends his guilt was a “done deal”, insisting he had no chance of a fair trial because of the political bias.