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Berlusconi sentenced to seven years in jail for sex with a minor

The former prime minister is unlikely to serve any time, given his age – but the ruling is a major political blow.

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi
Image: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

THE FORMER Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to seven years in jail after being found guilty of having sex with a minor.

The 76-year-old three-time premier has also been banned from holding public office.

Berlusconi was found to have paid for sex with a then 17-year-old Moroccan-born dancer, Karima El-Mahroug, at several erotically-charged ‘Bunga bunga’ parties – and, perhaps more seriously, to have lobbied police to secure her release when she was later arrested for theft.

Defence lawyers claimed Berlusconi believed El-Mahroug – nicknamed ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’ – to be the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and that he had wanted to avoid a supposed diplomatic incident.

Neither Berlusconi nor El-Mahroug were in present in court in Milan for the ruling.

The ruling is unlikely to see Berlusconi serve time behind bars – the sentence will not be enforced until the appeals process has been exhausted.

However, the verdict is a major political blow and a huge embarrassment to Italy’s ruling coalition, in which Berlusconi’s People of Freedom is a major partner.

The sentence handed down by the panel of three female judges was longer than the six-year jail term that prosecutors had sought.

Karima el Mahroug, second from right, preparing to give testimony in court in May. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Aresu)

A former cruise ship singer, Berlusconi has been under investigation – or on trial – ever since entering politics in the 1990s after a career in construction and the media.

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 has also been frozen pending a second appeal.

Three of his friends – a showbusiness agent, a former network anchor and a former regional assemblywoman – are on trial on pimping charges, in a separate case linked to this one.

Prosecutors in Naples have also requested a trial against Berlusconi on allegations that he bribed a left-wing senator with €3 million to join his party and topple a government.

Despite his conviction today, however, and even if he were convicted in any other trial, Berlusconi is unlikely ever to see the inside of a prison cell because of lenient sentencing guidelines for people aged over 70.

Additional reporting by AFP

Explainer: Berlusconi: the four current cases against him

More: Thousands attend rally for Berlusconi – despite his conviction for tax fraud >

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Gavan Reilly

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