Sex, cash and starlets – it sounds like a film but for Silvio Berlusconi it is a court case that is all too real.
A nightclub dancer called Ruby, and three female judges who will decide the Italian prime minister’s fate, have key roles in the drama. Proceedings are due to start in Milan within hours with Hollywood star George Clooney among the defence witnesses called by Berlusconi.
“What we have seen so far, with the long, long lists of possible witnesses on both sides is that this is going to be a celebrity cabaret almost, rather than a trial,” said Professor James Walston of The American University of Rome. “At the same time, Berlusconi’s lawyers and his politicians are trying to have the trial moved to a different court, just to delay.”
The 74-year-old Italian leader denies paying for sex with a nightclub dancer called Ruby when she was under the legal age of 18 and a related charge of abusing his office.
Berlusconi loyalists, demonstrating in front of the court in Milan, need no convincing. “I am in love with Berlusconi because he is a good person,” said one woman. “What he gets up to with people does not have anything to do with anyone else. If they want to destroy Berlusconi, they are just cowards.”
But, in Rome, another woman interviewed ahead of the trial, saw things very differently. “Nothing will change,” said Rosanna Mirri. “He is so powerful he will be able to keep everything under wraps.”
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, one thing is sure, the media will have a ball.