MILAN — Silvio Berlusconi has just announced he is running for the Italian Premiership 2013, but his alleged past misdeeds are not going away any time soon.
The missing key witness in the former Italian prime minister’s ongoing sex trial has now turned up in Mexico.
Karima El Mahroug, now 20 — colloquially called “Ruby the Heartstealer” — was due to give evidence on Monday in a case in which Berlusconi, 76, is accused of paying for sex with Mahroug when she was only 17.
That age put Mahroug under the legal minimum age for prostitution in Italy — 18 — and gave rise to the current criminal case against the billionaire politician and media tycoon.
After Mahroug failed to appear in the Milan court, the court ordered police to track the nightclub dancer down.
At that hearing Mahroug’s lawyer, Paola Boccardi, said she did not know where her client was. Reutersreports that Boccardi subsequently informed them on Tuesday that Mahroug had “got in touch to say she was in Mexico with her boyfriend and baby, and would be back next month.”
Boccardi said Mahroug was “sorry” that her absence had inconvenienced the court and said her client would return by December 17, the date on which the next trial hearing has been set.
Reuters further report that Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini told the court that Mahroug’s no show was a “deliberate delaying tactic orchestrated by Berlusconi’s lawyers to avoid a verdict in the trial until after an election which is expected in February.”
Last week Berlusconi declared he would run for premiership in the next Italian election. Just hours afterwards, current Prime Minister Mario Monti announced he would resign after critical “Austerity” measures were passed in the Italian parliament.
Monti’s resignation promise followed Berlusconi’s right-wing “People of Freedom” party (PDL) withdrawal of support for Monti’s administration.
Berlusconi is alleged to have paid for sex with Mahroug at so-called “Bunga Bunga” parties thrown at various villas he owns.
Intense media coverage has attended coverage of the case, and ripe testimony from a parade of showgirl witnesses who allege they were present at these parties is expected to fuel interest throughout the duration of the trial.
For her part, Mahroug has previously said she did not have sex with the controversial ex-leader, tellingLa Republica in 2010 that:
“It’s the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear.”
Berlusconi is also accused of abusing his powers while he was still prime minister to effect the release of Mahroug when she was detained in police custody after been arrested in Milan for allegedly stealing cash.
At the time, Berlusconi did not deny that he sent an aide to secure Mahroug’s release, saying, “I’m a person of the heart, and I take action whenever there is someone in need of help.”
Berlusconi denies all the charges against him.