, ROME, Apr 16 – Strippers in nun costumes danced in front of Silvio Berlusconi at his villa, a witness on Monday told a Milan court where the former Italian prime minister is on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute.
Model Imane Fadil said the first time she went to a party she was given 2,000 euros ($2,600) in cash by Berlusconi, who told her: “Don’t be offended.”
That night she said she saw two young women in nun costumes with “black tunics, white veils and crosses” stripping in front of the then prime minister.
One of the two was Nicole Minetti, now a regional councillor for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party in Milan, Moroccan-born Fadil said.
She said Minetti and the other woman ended up staying the night at the villa near Milan and alleged that women who stayed were paid more for sex.
Fadil said she had heard of Berlusconi having sex for money with at least two of the women invited to his parties, Italian media reported.
Fadil also said she had come under pressure from a mysterious man to go back to the villa last year when the Berlusconi trial had already started.
“A man stopped near my house and gave me an untraceable phone to organise a visit to Arcore. But I didn’t want to,” she told the courtroom.
Berlusconi is charged with having sex with an underage prostitute, Karima El-Mahroug, and then allegedly abusing his powers by getting police to release her when she was arrested for theft so that his crime would not be revealed.
El-Mahroug, a dancer who was 17 when she allegedly had sex with the then prime minister, is better known by her stage name of “Ruby the Heart Stealer”.
Berlusconi rejects all charges and El-Mahroug denies having sex with him.
The Corriere della Sera daily last week reported that Berlusconi last year paid a total of 127,000 euros ($165,000) to three witnesses – Minetti and two other girls – when the trial against him had already started.
Berlusconi’s lawyer Niccolo Ghedini rejected accusations of an attempt to influence their testimony, saying that the payments were absolutely legal and were an example of the former prime minister’s “usual generosity.”
Speaking to the Il Giornale daily owned by his family, Berlusconi himself said: “Minetti asked me for help at a time of difficulty, and I happily gave it to her. When someone in difficulty asks for help, you don’t ask what for.”
Italian media said Minetti used the money to pay legal fees in a separate trial against her for allegedly procuring prostitutes for Berlusconi.
The other two recipients were twins Eleonora and Imma De Vivo who are alleged by prosecutors to have performed strip shows for the then premier.
“Where could these people have found a job after having been so heavily dragged into a scandal built around me in which they were unwitting victims?”
“When I am confronted with dramatic and touching cases, I don’t hesitate to intervene whether it be for individuals or for charities,” he said.
The billionaire tycoon was ousted in November 2011 following a parliamentary revolt against his increasingly scandal-tainted rule and a wave of panic on the financial markets that pushed Italy to the brink of default.
He is a defendant in two other trials – for tax fraud and for violating official secrets. An Italian court earlier this year threw out bribery charges against him under the statute of limitations following a five-year trial.
Despite his being convicted several times of corruption and false accounting in the past, all cases against Berlusconi have either been overturned or expired after years of moving laboriously through Italy’s justice system.