Berlusconi gave dancer millions for Bunga Bunga silence

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (second, left) walk during their meeting in Italy, June 10, 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (second, left) walk during their meeting in Italy, June 10, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

MILAN (AFP) - Silvio Berlusconi paid an exotic dancer and other young women some €10 million (S$15 million) for their silence over what went on at his Bunga Bunga sex parties, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Milan prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano told a press conference she had no doubt the former prime minister and billionaire media tycoon had engaged in an orchestrated attempt to pervert the course of justice.

The effort came while he was being investigated and tried for paying for sex with dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known as Ruby the heart stealer, when she was under 18.

Berlusconi, 78, was cleared of that charge on a final appeal earlier this year after the judge ruled he could not have known she was under age.

Ruby testified that she had not had sex with the tycoon, claiming she had lied on a wiretap in which she was heard telling friends she had.

The subsequent probe into the evidence given by Ruby and other young women who attended libertine parties at Berlusconi's various lavish properties have established that he gave her gifts worth €7 million in the form of cash and presents including cars as well as accommodation and the covering of medical bills.

Other witnesses received a further €3 million worth of enticements to keep quiet and in total 34 people, 21 of them young women, are suspected of varying degrees of corruption and giving false evidence, Siciliano said.

The 34 include Berlusconi himself, one of his lawyers and a singer and pianist who ensured a constant musical backdrop to soirees which reportedly began as elegant dinner parties and ended up as something resembling a Roman orgy.

Berlusconi's defence say the gifts are proof of nothing more than their client's generosity - an argument that Siciliano said "goes up in smoke" in light of the evidence assembled.

Siciliano also revealed that Ruby had invested some two million euros of the money she received from Berlusconi in Dubai. Another €320,000 was given to her to cover the cost of moving to Mexico with a former boyfriend.

Berlusconi is now virtually certain to face another trial in a career that has been full of them.

Prosecutors in Naples last week asked for him to be sent to jail for five years over his alleged bribing of an Italian senator as part of a plot to destabilise a 2006-08 centre-left government.

But even if found guilty in that case, Berlusconi is seen as unlikely to end up behind bars.

He will remain at liberty pending two possible appeals - which could take years - and even if a guilty verdict is definitively upheld he could be spared prison on the grounds of his advanced age.

He was convicted last year of major corporate tax fraud but was allowed to serve a community service order helping old people rather than go to jail.