We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Gregorio Borgia/AP/Press Association Images
Bunga Bunga

Berlusconi: the four cases against him

From Mediaset fraud to wiretap appeal to Ruby Gate – the former Italian PM has been nothing if not controversial.

Updated, 16:36

FORMER ITALIAN PREMIER Silvio Berlusconi’s underage prostitution and abuse of power trial – the verdict in which was handed down today – is one of four legal procedures, three trials and a pre-trial investigation, against him.

Multiple previous cases against him have either been thrown out, expired under a statute of limitations, or had initial convictions overturned on appeal.

Berlusconi denies all the allegations against him and says he has been the victim of left-wing prosecutors ever since entering politics in the 1990s.

The prime minister rarely attends the hearings and was not in court in Milan on Monday.

Under Italian law, sentences are not carried out until the appeals process has been exhausted.

Here are the details of the four current cases against Berlusconi:

  • Ruby trial: The former prime minister allegedly had sex for money on several occasions in 2010 with a then 17-year-old girl known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer” during raunchy parties at his luxurious residence outside Milan.

He is also accused of personally putting pressure on police to get the Moroccan-born girl, whose real name is Karima El-Mahroug, released from custody when she was arrested for theft so that she would not reveal their liaison.

Today he was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in jail – a sentence which will not be enforced until an appeals process has been exhausted.

  • Mediaset trial: In October 2012 Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud connected to his Mediaset empire, and was banned from holding public office for five years by a Milan court, which then immediately cut the sentence to one year under an amnesty law.

The conviction was upheld by an appeals court in March this year, and the case now goes to Italy’s highest court, which is expected to rule towards the end of 2013.

  • Wiretap trial: In March, Berlusconi was sentenced to a year in prison over the publication of leaked transcripts from a police wiretap in a newspaper in his media empire. He is currently appealing the verdict.

The case will expire under the statute of limitations later in the year, meaning that both the sentence and appeal would be thrown out.

  • Bribery: Prosecutors in Naples have requested a trial against Berlusconi on allegations that he bribed a left-wing senator with three million euros to join his party and topple a past centre-left cabinet.


Berlusconi is a flamboyant billionaire and political wizard whose taste for pretty young women has led to a costly divorce and a trial which could see him banned from office or jailed.

In the so-called “Rubygate” case, he risks six years in prison if found guilty by three female judges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, and abusing his powers of office.

The 76-year-old’s troubles with women have been splashed across the front pages of Italy’s dailies since 2006, when his second wife Veronica Lario publicly asked for a divorce in an open letter.

In it, she described Berlusconi as “a dragon to whom young virgins offer themselves,” accused him of being “unwell” and said she could not stay with a man “who frequents minors.”

In December 2012, a court ordered him to pay her €3m a month alimony.

Veronica Lario and Silvio Berlusconi in June 2004. Pic: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

In June 2009, call girl Patrizia D’Addario spilt to the press the raunchy details of a night she had spent in 2008 with Berlusconi and published the book “Take Your Pleasure, Prime Minister”.

The media magnate, who has often boasted of his penchant for young women, insists he did not have sex with Moroccan-born Karima El-Mahroug, a busty glamour girl nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer”.

But the investigation uncovered details of vast sums that Berlusconi had lavished on young escorts.

The three-time premier has shrugged off the scandals to score political triumphs time and again and recently came a close second in general elections despite the lurid allegations surrounding him.

Berlusconi burst on to the political scene in the early 1990s, when his promises of a fresh start after a period of political corruption and scandal made an immediate impact – helped by his dominance of the airwaves.

He was born in 1936, in Milan, Italy’s economic capital, to a doting bank employee father and a housewife mother who never gave up staunchly defending her son’s virtues.

A charmer with slick hair and a winning smile, the young Berlusconi was a born entertainer. A huge fan of singer Nat King Cole, he played double bass and entertained the crowd with jokes in clubs during breaks from studying law.

He also had a brief stint as a cruise-ship crooner before launching a lucrative career in the booming construction sector.

In 1978 Berlusconi set up Fininvest, a holding company which grew to include big names such as Mediaset – with three national television channels – and AC Milan, one of the world’s leading football clubs.

Berlusconi in his time as AC Milan President, meeting Berard Tapie of Marseille. Presse Sports/Press Association Images

Berlusconi’s political success and growing influence as a broadcasting tycoon were closely entwined: the media magnate wooed millions of Italians, from disgruntled housewives to sports fans, through his vast television empire.

His daring and splashy political debut in 1993 with a new party called Forza Italia (“Go Italy”) – named after a football chant – was unprecedented in tradition-bound Italy, and won him widespread popular support.

His first stint as prime minister in 1994 lasted only a few months.

In 2001 however, he was elected again after a media campaign which included sending a book boasting of his achievements to 15 million Italian homes.

Nicknamed “Il Cavaliere” (“The Knight”), the media magnate remained in power until 2006 – the longest premiership in the history of post-war Italy – and as a divided left floundered, he was voted back in for a third time in 2008.

Italy’s richest person between 1996 and 2008 – he owns villas around the world – the party-loving premier’s clownish behaviour may have amused some Italians, but it has on several occasions got him into hot water on the international scene.

He has become notorious for his off-colour jokes and diplomatic gaffes, on one occasion likening a German Euro-MP to a Nazi and describing US President Barack Obama as “suntanned”.

Embarrassed Italians protest at Berlusconi’s comment on Barack Obama’s skin tone in 2008. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia/PA Images

The centre-right Berlusconi was finally ousted from the premiership in 2011 to the relief of his critics, who said his leadership had been disastrous for the economy.

But his many legal woes have kept him in the headlines.

A Milan court last month upheld his conviction for tax fraud, confirming the punishment of a year in prison and a five-year ban from public office which is frozen pending a second appeal.

Prosecutors in Naples have also requested a trial against Berlusconi on allegations that he bribed a left-wing senator with three million euros to join his party and topple a past centre-left cabinet.

Despite some initial convictions for fraud, all but one of many legal cases against him have so far been won on appeal. Others have simply fallen foul of the statute of limitations in Italy’s notoriously slow-moving legal system.

- © AFP, 2013

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.