Berlusconi, lawyers probed for alleged witness corruption

Rome, Jan 24: Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been put under investigation in Milan for allegedly corrupting witnesses during his trial for having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power to cover it up, media reports said Thursday.

Berlusconi and two of his lawyers, Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, were being probed along with Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed “Ruby”, the woman Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of paying for sex before she was 18, Xinhua reported.

According to Milan prosecutors, Ruby allegedly took bribes to give favourable testimony for Berlusconi during his trial. Several other young women who denied in court that Berlusconi hosted sex parties at his villa in Milan were being probed too, Milan-based Corriere della Sera newspaper said.

Berlusconi, 77, was appealing against the Ruby trial’s seven-year prison sentence as well as against a one-year term for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap. He has also been indicted on charges of bribing a senator.

A Milan court April 10 will decide whether he will serve his tax fraud sentence doing community service. The August four-year verdict, cut by an amnesty, was Berlusconi’s first definitive conviction after 20 years of legal battles.

After the definitive conviction, the media tycoon and three-time premier was ejected from parliament under a 2012 anti-corruption law but he revived his centre-right party Forza Italia (FI) and broke with the ruling left-right coalition to become the main opposition force.

Berlusconi, who has always claimed to be the innocent victim of left wing magistrates, said in response to the new investigation that he was “staying on the field”.

“I am more convinced than ever that I have to fight till the end to see what I deeply believe in prevail,” he was quoted as saying by ANSA news agency.