25 Jun 2013

Berlusconi sentenced to prison over sex case

10:29 pm on 25 June 2013

A court in Italy has sentenced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to seven years in prison for paying for sex with an underage prostitute. He was also banned from holding public office for life.

The Milan court ruling is not effective until several appeals have been heard. Both he and the Moroccan woman concerned, Karima El Mahroug, had denied the charges.

Berlusconi, 76, is already embroiled in several other court cases. In October 2012 he was given a four-year prison sentence for tax fraud, which is also under appeal, the BBC reports.

In the latest court ruling he was convicted of paying for sex with Ms El Mahroug, known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", in 2010, even though she was 17 at the time.

Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, having sex with one who is under the age of 18 is an offence punishable by a prison sentence. He was also found guilty of abusing his prime ministerial powers.

Ms El Mahroug was one of a group of women invited to Mr Berlusconi's private residence for "bunga-bunga" party evenings.

The prosecution said these women were part of a prostitution system set up for his personal sexual satisfaction.

The three female judges sentenced Berlusconi to seven years in prison - one year more than the six-year term demanded by the prosecution.

As soon as the verdict was announced, defence lawyer Niccolo Ghedini announced an appeal.

"This is beyond reality," Mr Ghedini said outside the court. "The judges even went beyond the prosecutors' request."