Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, and no friend of Silvio Berlusconi, published yesterday, an article claiming that investigations are under way in Milan into statements made by 17 year old Moroccan girl who is claiming she got all up close and personal (no longer – see October 28 update below) with one Silvio Berlusconi.
Berlusconi is not, presently, being investigated for anything untoward. Everything needs to be checked and double checked to ascertain whether the girl’s claims contain any substance. It is being mooted that the girl, who Il Fatto Quotidiano is calling ‘Ruby’, could be attempting, or have attempted, to blackmail Silvio Berlusconi, who, via his almost ex-wife has already faced indirect allegations that he had been consorting with under-age girls. Then there was the Noemi Letizia scandal – which came to nothing. The Letizia affair questioned Berlusconi’s relationship with a girl under the age of 18.
The Letizia scandal appeared to have been the final straw for Veronica Lario, Berlusconi’s then wife, who initiated divorce proceedings soon after.
So far the Ruby case does not appear to have made onto Italian television news, but some Italian papers, including La Stampa, and Il Giornale – the Berlusconi family paper – have picked up on the ‘Ruby’ case.
‘Ruby’ came to the attention of the police, according to Il Giornale, after she was stopped by police, (update 28 October 2010) in connection with the suspected theft of €3000, it has emerged via an article in La Repubblica, and found not to have her documents in order. To get herself out of trouble, she said something like ‘Look, I know Silvio Berlusconi’. Further questions led her to alleging she had had a relationship with Italy’s prime minister, and so began preliminary investigations.
Update 3 November 2010
Investigations are continuing. It has not yet be established whether Berlusconi did indeed use his influence to help Ruby Karima off the hook when she was arrested for theft. The affair continues to damage Berlusconi and there are other parallel investigations into his party antics which are under way.
To make matters worse, it’s looking as if Berlusconi has been mixed up in another bribery scandal involving the San Raffaele hospital and university complex in Milan. The case could turn out to be something to do with large scale money laundering too. Oddly enough, Italy’s mainstream news has not been reporting the San Raffaele situation even if lesser publications have dedicated some column space to the case.
What has happened is that Berlusconi is now facing a chorus of calls for his resignation from many, up to an including Gianfranco Fini, his ex-number two. The crisis in Italy’s virtually paralysed government is growing, but Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to go and says that the stories are all made up.
There are moves being considered to try to use a ‘destitution’ vote to kick Berlusconi out. The destitution measure is, as I understand it, a form of disciplinary action which can be used to have misbehaving or convicted public officials removed from office. It is also possible to use this measure to prevent the person involved from ever again holding political office. Whether or not the destitution action will be employed remains to be seen, but crucial points will be the outcome of the Ruby and San Raffaele situations as well as the decision on the Mills bribery case which will be released in early December.
While everything is looking bad for Berlusconi, it is possible he will rise from the ashes, however this time, his chances of doing a phoenix trick appear to be greatly reduced.
If something significant occurs, then this post will be updated once more.
End of 8 November 2010 Update
Update 2 November 2010
Ruby, the girl at the centre of BungaBungaGate, now has a name: Karima El Mahroug. She’s only just turned 18, and has apparently sold exclusive rights to photos of her birthday celebrations to a magazine in the Berlusconi group fold.
Interviews with Karima are appearing right, left and centre; they seem rather scripted; and she’s contradicting what she allegedly told Milan prosecutors. Karima has also acquired a high-powered lawyer, and the girl was caught up in investigations in 2009 revolving around celebrities (known as VIPs in Italy) and escorts.
Karima states that Berlusconi’s house parties are civilised affairs, but admitted receiving seven thousand Euros from Mr B for attending one of his parties. Photographs of the young lady are appearing in newspapers too, as she capitalises on the attention she has garnered. Expect a book, record, and a film soon.
It looks as if Berlusconi was unaware of Karima’s real age – she said she was 24 – but when he found out, he dropped her like a hot potato.
The affair is continuing to rile Silvio Berlusconi, who has been facing calls for his resignation – ex-political partner Gianfranco Fini is one person who has called Mr B to go, but only if it turns out that he used his influence to help Ruby Karima out of trouble with the police, which would constitute an abuse of power.
Don’t Read Italian Newspapers
Today, Berlusconi stated that everybody should stop reading newspapers because they are out to deceive readers. He also claimed that it’s better to look at pretty girls than to be gay – causing uproar in Italy’s gay community, but probably appealing to those who vote for him.
The show is rolling on, with Berlusconi has declared that his going would be damaging for Italy. He does not seem to realise that the Ruby affair has damaged Italy’s public image even further, as has the resurgence of the Naples trash crisis.
Meanwhile, there are reports that nearly 30% of Italy’s young are out of work, and that the government is to cut study grants massively. Italians cherish their right to education, so this move will not be at all popular.
In the face of all the opposition, it’s not clear for how much longer Berlusconi can hang on in there, and more from his party are moving to ex-political partner Fini’s splinter group.
Will update once more, if events develop further.
Update 29th October
Rubygate or bungabunga-gate is taking off. Mainstream Italian, and foreign, news has now got hold of the latest scandal to hit Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi appears to have admitted helping out Ruby when she was stopped by the police for a suspected theft, and some are saying that his ‘help’ constituted an abuse of power. Berlusconi claims he’s always willing to help people who are in trouble.
Famiglia Christiana, an Italian magazine close to the Roman Catholic church, has questioned whether a man of his stature should be behaving in such a way – entertaining lots of young ladies and holding what some are saying were wild romps, or, possibly, orgies.
Berlusconi, meanwhile, has defended his lifestyle saying he feels no shame for what he does, and has said that the ‘bunga bunga’ parties where merely civilized dinner parties. Not everyone find his claim believable, especially after the photographs of goings on at Villa Certosa, Berlusconi’s villa on the island of Sardinia.
In case you were wondering, ‘bunga bunga’ is an expression Berlusconi reputedly took from Gadaffi. Gadaffi apparently uses the expression to refer to his harem. The term ‘bunga bunga’ can mean an erotic dance or violent punishment involving rape. Berlusconi has reportedly used the term to describe the parties he holds, parties which, it is said, involve lots of young ladies.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Ruby, the young, very young, lady who appears to have given birth to the latest scandal involving Mr B, is now thought to be Egyptian, and not, as initially reported, Moroccan. Some photographs of Ruby are appearing and she is does not look Moroccan, well, I don’t think so.
There is an interview with ‘Ruby’ here: Berlusconi mi ha sgridato – Berlusconi scolded me … and allegedly paid her 7,000 Euros for an ‘appearance’ at Berlusconi’s Milan villa.
Italian prosecutors are investigating whether a couple of close friends of Berlusconi may have been involved in abetting prostitution. If this is established, charges will be brought, and the situation will worsen for Italy’s prime minister.
And then, there is the parody of the Shakira song Africa, by Italian group Elio e le storie tese:
Twitter Italy is awash with the bungabunga Twitter hashtag. The media furore is turning into something of a frenzy.
The story may blow over, but Berlusconi may not survive if investigators find unpleasant things under stones.
Once again Italy is not looking great in the eyes of the world.
End of 29th October update
Update 28th October 2010
It’s also come out that Ruby ended up in police custody earlier this year, but requests from high up caused her release. It was also claimed, at the time, that Ruby was Egyptian and the daughter of Egypt’s president Mubarak! Upon Ruby’s release, Berlusconi’s ex-dental hygienist was awaiting her, so she does appear to have some connections to people close to Berlusconi, however investigators are still trying to establish which parts of Ruby’s accounts are true and which are fiction.
It is now no longer being claimed that Ruby passed time in the company of Silvio Berlusconi and a sexual encounter has, for the moment, been ruled out.
More facts are emerging, and some denials are coming out too – such as that of Emilio Fede, director of the TG4 news programme, the person, Ruby claims, who introduced her to Berlusconi. Fede is denying he ever introduced Ruby to Berlusconi, although he said he spoke to Ruby at one of Silvio Berlusconi’s parties.
A lot of mention is being made of parties at Berlusconi’s mansion in Milan, Arcore, where, it appears, quite a number of raunchy get-togethers were held. Fede, via a report in today’s Il Giornale says that the parties were not ‘transgressive’, and Berlusconi is saying that the whole affair is merely ‘media trash’, but that he did help Ruby out when she got herself in a bit of trouble, because that is what he does.
Ruby, meanwhile, via Facebook, has denied the accuracy of the versions of events appearing in Italy’s press, which she says have been manipulated.
The Ruby case rumbles on, and La Repubbica has joined Il Fatto Quotidiano in questioning whether Berlusconi has left himself wide open to extortion and blackmail, and observes this is very dangerous position to be in for a person in his position. Video phones are everywhere now, so Berlusconi and his team must be worried about what might end up being made public.
Could Berlusconi’s attempts to rush through a law which will grant him immunity from prosecution be connected to certain concerns arising from the odd party or two? One wonders.
End of 28th October 2010 update
Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that Berlusconi has appeared to be rather nervous recently, but with his problems at the moment (cracks appearing in his government, falling popularity, other questions, and pending court cases), it is not necessarily the unsubstantiated allegations made by ‘Ruby’ that are giving him cause for concern.
Today, again in Il Fatto Quotidiano – the printed edition – not the online version – the story has been covered once more, and connections between ‘Ruby’ and those close to Berlusconi have been revealed.
This is a case of breaking news, and it’s not clear what, if anything, will come of it. However, one thing is clear – Berlusconi is once again in the spotlight, but not for the right reasons.
Il Fatto Quotidiano posed the question as to whether someone who could be so easily blackmailed should be prime minister.
That soap opera which is Italy rolls on.
With a little luck this case will fizzle away into nothing – there are so many scandals in Italy that it’s difficult to keep up with them all.