Berlusconi, 76, is on trial for abuse of power and soliciting an underage prostitute, Karima el-Mahroug, also known as Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heart Stealer). Now 20, el-Mahroug was a guest of late-night parties at Berlusconi's when she was 17 and he was prime minister.
Prosecutor Antonio Sangermano said el-Mahroug was "an integral part" of a "complex prostitution ring" and labelled it a "gross anomaly" that several showgirls had testified in court that Berlusconi was paying them 2,500 euros (3,250 dollars) a month.The prosecution was due to make a sentencing request for Berlusconi on Friday, while the defence was scheduled to speak on March 11. A verdict is expected on March 18. Berlusconi, who has rejected all the charges, mocked the prosecutor, saying Sangermano had been "lucky" never to have had to pay a woman "to have intimate relations."
If found guilty of soliciting a minor, Berlusconi could face prison sentences ranging from six months to three years, while the abuse of power charges could see him jailed for three to eight years. However, a guilty ruling would not be enforced if he were to appeal. Earlier on Monday, Juvenile Court Prosecutor Annamaria Fiorillo testified about the May 2010 night when el-Mahroug was held in Milan on suspicion of theft. This was weeks after she allegedly had sex with the former Italian leader.
Berlusconi is suspected of having stopped police from sending
el-Mahroug to a juvenile re-education facility, falsely claiming she was a niece of then Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak. Instead, a member of Berlusconi's party was given custody over the girl. Fiorillo said she strongly opposed the custody decision, and said that former Interior Minister Roberto Maroni had lied when he said during a parliamentary debate on the Ruby affair that she had authorised it.
"No magistrate worthy of his name would have done such a thing," she told judges.Maroni, the leader of the Northern League, is a key Berlusconi ally. He was elected last week governor of Lombardy, the wealthy industrial region around Milan. Berlusconi risks convictions in two other trials ending this month, concerning tax fraud and the leaking of confidential information to damage a political rival.
In a separate case, a Naples court on Monday convicted journalist Valter Lavitola of attempted blackmail and sentenced him to 32 months' imprisonment for threatening Berlusconi with the release of embarrassing information about him. The media mogul turned politician claims to be a victim of politically motivated magistrates, and has called on his supporters to stage a street protest in his defence on March 23.
Despite the scandals surrounding him, Berlusconi still holds sway with voters. Last week his conservative coalition was only just beaten by the centre-left in a general election that has produced a parliamentary deadlock.