Berlusconi to stand trial in Ruby case

Italo premier accused of sex with underage pole dancer

With thousands of Italian women out on the streets protesting for greater dignity for women, media mogul and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will stand trial April 6 on charges he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan nightclub dancer and abused his power by covering it up.

It’s the first time Berlusconi has been indicted for personal conduct. He’s also facing two trials related to business affairs at his Mediaset TV empire.

But the sex scandal touches tangentially on Mediaset. The TV group’s news anchor Emilio Fede and former Mediaset showgirl Nicole Minetti, who is a local pol, are under investigation for exploiting or aiding prostitution of a minor by allegedly organizing Berlusconi’s sexual encounters.

The protesters accuse Mediaset of objectifying femmes in its shows.

The billionaire TV tycoon has dismissed the court accusations as groundless and part of a smear job by left-leaning magistrates to oust him from power.

Prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with then 17-year-old Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed Ruby, during parties at his villa outside Milan, then used his influence with Milan police to get El Mahroug released from jail, where she was being held on unrelated theft charges. They claim he feared their relationship would be revealed.

Both have denied having sexual relations, though El Mahroug said Berlusconi gave her €7,000 ($9,550) when they first met.

The sex scandal has been a marketing dream for helmer Giulio Manfredonia’s laffer “Qualunquemente” (Whatsoeverly), about a flashy pol who loves sex and hates justice. Co-produced by Domenico Procacci with RAI Cinema, “Whatsoeverly,” which screened in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section, has scored more than $20 million at the Italian box office after four frames, making it the top local grosser from RAI Cinema/01 Distribuzione.

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