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ROME – With Silvio Berlusconi fighting for his political life, the woman who had more to do with his downfall than any other is enjoying the high life on what Italian newspapers say is almost surely Berlusconi’s dime.
Multiple Italian press reports from Sunday and Monday, among them the Rome daily La Repubblica, say that Karima el-Mahroug, the former erotic dancer and call girl Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex when she was 17 and he was 74, has been spotted living a high-rolling lifestyle: depositing nearly $3 million into a bank account in Dubai and shopping for apartments there and relaxing at a luxury beachfront resort in Mexico, where she reportedly plans to open a posh nightclub with her new husband Luca Risso.
Berlusconi is charged with paying el-Mahroug — best known by her stage name “Ruby the Heartstealer” — for sex in 2010 and then lying to law enforcement officials to get her off a small shoplifting charge afterwards. The underage sex charge and abuse of power charges helped set off a cascade of legal woes for the billionaire media tycoon that resulted in his stepping down as prime minister, being stripped of his Senate seat and facing a ban from politics and a year of house arrest or community service.
Both Berlusconi and el-Mahroug deny having had sexual relations, and Berlusconi’s attorneys once threatened to sue publications claiming otherwise for libel. A court found Berlusconi guilty of the charges, which are now under appeal.
Berlusconi said he once gave el-Mahroug several thousand euros so she could open a beauty spa and stop working as a prostitute. But some Italian media reports have said indications are that she received millions from Berlusconi, with some speculating she may have received extra cash to avoid taking steps that would hurt Berlusconi’s chances of rebuiling his tarnished reputation.
In addition to the charges of paying a minor for sex and abuse of power, Berlusconi’s lawyers are currently appealing charges of bribery of a public official and illegal wiretaps. Last year, the Supreme Court of Italy upheld a ruling of false accounting and tax fraud in connection with film content deals for Mediaset, the Milan-based TV and cinema giant that Berlusconi founded and still controls.
Berlusconi denies wrongdoing in all the cases, and despite a ban from politics in Italy he has vowed to run for a seat in May elections for the European Parliament. He continues to act as the head of Forza Italia, the political movement he founded two decades ago.
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