Berlusconi's "Ruby Heart Stealer" to face new trial with 22 others

The nightclub dancer at the centre of the "bunga bunga" criminal case against former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is to face a new trial, along with 22 other defendants, for perverting the course of justice back then, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Karima El Mahroug, also known as "Ruby Heart Stealer," is accused of making false statements when she appeared in court during proceedings against Berlusconi, which ended last year with an acquittal for lack of evidence.

Prosecutors suspect that Berlusconi paid her and other women who were summoned as defence witnesses more than 10 million euros (11 million dollars) to make statements that helped the former premier avoid a conviction.

El Mahrough will be tried in Milan starting January 11 along with her ex lawyer Luca Giuliante; her former boyfriend Luca Risso; several other showgirls and aides; and personal friends of Berlusconi such as Senator Mariarosaria Rossi and journalist Carlo Rossella.

Judge Laura Marchiondelli has yet to decide whether Berlusconi should also go to trial in the case. An October 3 hearing on the issue was postponed to December 15 after the politician, who underwent heart surgery in June, cited health problems.

In the original case, focused on nighttime parties Berlusconi hosted in his villa outside Milan, the politician was accused of soliciting sex from El Mahroug when she was still underage and abusing his position as then prime minister to cover up the affair.

The affair became known as "bunga bunga" after the underground room where Berlusconi would entertain guests. In past trials, witnesses said the room hosted lap dance routines, sometimes by dancers wearing masks of famous people, such as US President Barack Obama.

Last update: Wed, 19/10/2016 - 15:24

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