'Berlusconi pimps knew Ruby under age'

'We had to investigate', prosecutor says in closing arguments

'Berlusconi pimps knew Ruby under age'

Milan, May 31 - Three people on trial for pimping for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi knew a Moroccan nightclub dancer and alleged prostitute called Ruby was under the legal age for sex work, a prosecutor said Friday. "Our defendants knew she was a minor," prosecutor Antonio Sangermano said in his closing arguments. The three are 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. Ruby, one of many women allegedly procured for sex, was one year below the legal age for prostitution at the time a series of alleged sex parties hosted by Berlusconi took place in 2010. Sex workers can ply their trade legally in Italy from the age of 18. Berlusconi is on trial directly in separate proceedings, dubbed Ruby1, for allegedly paying for sex with Ruby and abuse of office when he phoned police on her behalf when she was held on an unrelated theft charge. Phoning from Paris, he told police she should be released to avoid a diplomatic incident with Egypt because she had told him she was a relative of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi and Ruby have denied having sex and say the 4.5 million euros he gave her was a gift to help set her up in business after a sorry past including her escape from an allegedly violent Islam-enforcing father to a youth shelter she fled to start her dancing career. In Ruby1, Milan prosecutor Ilda Boccassini earlier this month requested that the ex-premier be sentenced to a combined six-year jail term and be banned for life from public office. Berlusconi claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors, including Boccassini, who have been conducting what he calls a witch-hunt against him. In the pimping trial, dubbed Ruby2, prosecutor Sangermano on Friday denied accusations of "spying" on the three-time premier and said the probe had to be opened because prosecutors got impelling reports a crime had been committed. "We received macroscopic reports of a crime, regarding an underage girl going around the streets of Milan with packages of money, who frequented luxury hotels, who lived with a prostitute and went to the home of a rich and powerful man from whom she said she was getting money after fleeing from a youth centre," the prosecutor told the court. Sangermano said police had wiretaps in which Mora told Ruby to "doll herself up with lingerie" and Minetti was allegedly heard talking about paying a stable of more than 30 young women, including Ruby, the only minor. "Is there anyone who would have hung up and shut their ears, without investigating," the prosecutor asked. He added that Ruby had shown herself to be "immature and vulnerable" and had changed her account of events several times, "mixing truth and lies" and contradicting herself in a "remarkable attempt to discredit herself". Testifying last week, Ruby admitted she fed police "baloney" in five questioning sessions, apart from the bit about not having sex with Berlusconbi, but said she could not really explain why she did so. According to the prosecutor Friday, after Ruby was taken to Berlusconi's villa at Arcore outside Milan for the first time, on February 14, 2010, Mora set up "a military apparatus to 'Save Private Ryan' and watch over her". The prosecutor accused the defendants of "grooming" girls to make sure they had the right "social and relationship skills" to be put into "the circuit of the Arcore nights". Sangermano rebutted suggestions that the picture of wild 'bunga bunga' parties was "born from the murky minds of investigators", saying it was instead "the context of the activity of prostitution". He said the parties, which Berlusconi has repeatedly described as innocent, cabaret-style entertainments, "were certainly of a prostitution nature".

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