ROME, Italy, Jan 11 – Silvio Berlusconi will learn by the end of this month if he is to stand trial for allegedly buying the silence of call girls and others who attended his infamous “bunga bunga” sex parties.
The expected timing of a keenly awaited ruling emerged Wednesday as the trial of 23 people accused of conspiring to protect the 80-year-old former prime minister was opened and immediately adjourned until July 3 for procedural reasons.
Among those accused of perjury, accepting bribes and other offences is Karima El-Mahroug, an exotic dancer known as Ruby the heart stealer who was allegedly showered with gifts worth seven million euros ($7.4 million) by Berlusconi.
The billionaire tycoon was cleared in 2015 of having paid for sex with Ruby when she was 17.
A judge at Italy’s highest appeal court quashed an earlier conviction on the grounds that Berlusconi could not have known Ruby was under 18 and that he was therefore committing a crime.
Frustrated prosecutors emerged from that trial determined to prove that many witnesses had lied under oath in return for lavish gifts in the form of cash, jewellery, holidays and even properties.
Ruby testified that she had not sex with Berlusconi, claiming she was lying when she was recorded on a wiretap telling friends the contrary.
Proceedings against Berlusconi are lagging behind those for the rest of the accused because of his need for medical treatment following open-heart surgery in June.
The media magnate has beaten numerous criminal charges over the years with his only definitive conviction to date being one for corporate tax fraud, which led to him being kicked out of parliament.
He remains the leader of his Forza Italia party but, with its fortunes on the decline, Berlusconi’s political influence has also waned.
Even if convicted, there is little chance of him ending up behind bars because of Italy’s restrictions on penal sanctions against the elderly.