Silvio Berlusconi. Ring any bells? Sounds like the name of James Bond's suave alter ego. While Berlusconi might not be the suavest man himself, he has his own way of being popular with the ladies.
Italy's ex-prime minister was found guilty of abusing his office and paying for sex with underage Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, a.k.a. "Ruby the HeartStealer." Berlusconi has since been sentenced to seven years in jail and is banned from holding public office for life.
It was a bitter blow to the political career of Berlusconi, whose supporters and close allies denounced the court's decision as "absurd" and as a "coup d'etat" by a left-wing judiciary.
Yet Silvio Berlusconi is known worldwide for his exotic nights and lifestyle. He is most famously known for his so called "bunga bunga" parties, which he would host at his villa outside Milan. Prosecutors alleged that more than 30 glamorous young women who were paid for their services attended these parties, performing strip teases and erotic dances in an underground room, which featured a stage, a bar and a small dance floor. And the stories only continue from there. On one occasion a group kissed and fondled a statuette of Priapus, the god of fertility. Later they did the same to Berlusconi, who in turn "touched them intimately," according to witness statements. The then prime minister allegedly paid each of these women thousands of euros to attend the parties, lavishing 17-year-old Ruby with tens of thousands.
Why "bunga bunga?" The first explanation of the phrase comes from Berlusconi himself, who says that it's from a politically incorrect joke he likes to tell about a pair of left-wing politicians who are captured by a tribe of cannibals in Africa. The second explanation is that it was a phrase he borrowed, the late Muammar Gaddafi, his friend. This indicates a harem of young women. Either way, it's become a global term that incites images of erotic parties where questionably young women perform sexual favors.
These explanations couldn't have helped his case much.
With regard to his other offense, the abuse of office accusation, Berlusconi made a call to a Milan police station in May 2010 to release Ms. El Mahroug from a theft charge. Terrified that the police would find out that she was 17 and underage at the time, while attending his wild sex parties, he tried to hush up his relationship with her by telling the police that she was the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian leader, and if she wasn't released, it was cause diplomatic calamity with Cairo.
But, after dozens of trials, hundreds of allegations, conviction of violating secrecy laws by publishing transcripts of phone calls tapped by the police, and innumerable delaying tactics after judges accepted a plea to postpone trial while he ran for re-election, the law has finally caught up with Silvio Berlusconi. Sort of.
Berlusconi is certain to appeal his convictions, and if he loses his appeal, he will undoubtedly appeal again to the Italian Supreme Court — dragging out the case for years. Until then, he is not expected to serve any prison term until all possible appeal trials have been carried out. Even now, the former Italian prime minister won't have to serve any time in jail simply because he's too old. Italian law almost always spares those over 75 jail time unless they committed some heinous crime. Lucky Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul, is 76.