Former Italian PM Berlusconi acquitted in “bunga bunga” corruption trial

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FILE PHOTO: Right-wing Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi (R) greets the media on February 9, 2021, as he arrives at Palazzo Montecitorio, seat of the lower house of parliament in Rome, for a meeting with ex-banker central Mario Draghi. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Rome, Italy – A Tuscan court on Thursday acquitted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of bribing a witness in the notorious “Rubygate” scandal over alleged sex festivals he organized.

The leader of the center-right party Forza Italia had been accused of having paid a pianist present at his “Bunga Bunga” parties to lie about the parties.

Girls who attended would later describe the events as sex parties, but Berlusconi always insisted that these were just fancy dinners.

“He is clearly relieved and satisfied,” said Berlusconi’s lawyer Federico Cecconi, quoted by Italian media, after the Siena court declared 85-year-old pianist and pianist Danilo Mariani innocent.

The defense had insisted that the money paid to Mariani was simply her performance fee.

The trial was part of the “Ruby-ter” investigation, the third involving her parties and the alleged underage prostitute Karima El-Mahroug, aka “Ruby the Heart Thief”.

The initial trial, dubbed ‘Rubygate’ after El-Mahroug’s pen name, saw Berlusconi appeal an initial sentence of seven years in prison in 2014, a decision upheld by Italy’s highest court in 2015.

A second trial named “Ruby-bis” concerned two of Berlusconi’s close allies – the former showgirl and Lombard advisor Nicole Minetti and journalist Emilio Fede – who allegedly supplied young prostitutes.

Fede was sentenced to four years and seven months in prison and Minetti to two years and 10 months.

The Ruby-ter lawsuits relate to alleged payments made by Berlusconi to people who attended the parties in exchange for their silence.

Prosecutors alleged that Berlusconi spent 10 million euros ($ 11.8 million) between 2011 and 2015, of which seven million euros went only to El-Mahroug in the form of cash, gifts, cars , housing, bill payment and medical expenses. .

Under Italian law, local courts are responsible for investigating bribes paid within city limits, and since payments were made in different cities, the case is handled by different courts, including Rome and Milan.

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