Ruby gives her take on Berlusconi ties at pimps' trial

Ex-premier 'always' gave her envelopes of cash

Ruby gives her take on Berlusconi ties at pimps' trial

(By Kate Carlisle) Milan, May 17 - A young Moroccan former nightclub dancer who went by the stage name 'Ruby Heartstealer' testified on Friday at the trial of three people accused of pimping for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi - retired TV anchorman Emilio Fede, bankrupt ex-talent scout Lele Mora and Nicole Minetti, an ex-Lombardy regional councillor and the ex-premier's former dental hygienist. The woman, who is at the center of a sex scandal involving Berlusconi said that when she first visited his villa in February 2010 he gave her an envelope containing between 2,000 and 3,000 euros. "I was always given an envelope full of money," often in 500-euro bank notes, she testified. But he "did not ever give me five million, nor ever promised" that amount, she said during her testimony. The prosecution in a related trial against Berlusconi has said that his bank withdrawals between October and December 2010 were enough to "cover abundantly" a 4.5-million-euro figure allegedly mentioned in phone calls and notes involving payment to El Mahroug. The ex-premier has said he gave the young woman money because he wanted to help her to establish a business and gain her independence. Opening a beauty salon was a "dream", El Mahroug said Friday. El Mahroug said that although things did not go well when she tried working in a salon in the city of Messina, she still craved economic independence and her own shop. She told the court that she was very surprised the first time she visited Berlusconi's home. "When I got out of the car (at Berlusconi's house), I was told this was the villa of the premier, and I was surprised". "It did not seem real," she said. She said Berlusconi, then premier, introduced himself and she was introduced simply as Ruby, adding that she went out that night at the invitation of Mora and thought she was on her way to a disco. According to El Mahroug, she never saw the ex-premier touch any girls at his supposed Bunga Bunga parties. "The girls came close (to him) while they were doing their sensual dances, but I never saw any physical contact," she said. However, she told the court that during after-dinner parties at the ex-premier's Arcore villa she saw showgirl Marystelle Polanco dressed as "Obama and as Ilda Boccassini, with a toga (magistrates robe) and red wig". Milan prosecutor Boccassini - who worked closely with murdered anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone in the 1990s and also lead a 2002 trial in which Berlusconi was accused of bribing judges in the 1980s in order to win control of the state-owned SME food conglomerate - requested Monday the former premier be sentenced to a combined six-year jail term for abuse of power and for having sex with Ruby when she was underaged. Berlusconi claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors, including Boccassini, who have been conducting a witch-hunt against him. Also according to El Mahroug, Minetti would dress as "a sexy nurse, doctor or nun". "I saw Minetti, at a certain point while she was dancing, strip down to her underwear," El Mahroug said. "In the ex-premier's Bunga Bunga room, there was a pole for dancing," she testified, saying that the other girls explained the origin of Bunga Bunga came from a joke that Berlusconi liked to tell. El Mahroug also denied ever performing erotic dancing at the alleged sex parties, and said she only ever made one appearance "in a belly dance," using clothes given to Berlusconi by his late friend former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. El Mahroug also testified that during that first party at Berlusconi's home, she also told the "story" that she was the daughter of a Brazilian singer and an Egyptian, and that she was also a "relative" of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi stands accused of allegedly abusing his power in a bid to have El Mahroug released from jail by arguing that that was necessary to avoid an international incident with Egypt. Mora, Fede and Minetti, all personal friends of Berlusconi, are charged with the alleged procurement of prostitutes, including Ruby, who was one year below the legal age for prostitution at the time of the alleged sex parties hosted by Berlusconi in 2010. Sex workers can ply their trade legally in Italy from the age of 18. The former nightclub dancer testified that she never had sex with Berlusconi, and that the ex-premier was under the impression she was in her twenties and not a minor. "He thought I was 23, 24," she said. The prosecutor contested this, citing a wiretapped conversation of El Mahroug with a friend in which she said "Silvio knows I'm a minor, but I denied this". She told the court she was not telling the truth in that conversation. "I told lies," said El Mahroug. "For me, lies were an automatic defense mechanism with everyone".

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