Acquittal of Silvio Berlusconi in witness bribery trial

Berlusconi did not personally attend Wednesday's court hearing.

Acquittal of Silvio Berlusconi in witness bribery trial

Berlusconi did not personally attend Wednesday's court hearing. After the verdict, however, he announced that after "more than eleven years of suffering, mudslinging and unpredictable political damage" he had "finally been released".

The billionaire had previously been acquitted of witness bribery in connection with the "Bunga Bunga" parties in two trials in 2021 and 2022 in Siena and Rome. Berlusconi's lawyer said he was "enormously satisfied" with the verdict.

At the center of the affair is the then 17-year-old dancer Karima el-Mahroug, alias Ruby Rubacuore (Ruby Heartbreaker), with whom Berlusconi is said to have had sex for money from 2010. The so-called "Ruby Affair" first came to the fore when el-Mahroug was arrested by Italian police in 2010 for theft.

Berlusconi, who was Prime Minister at the time, then called the police station and claimed that el-Mahroug was the niece of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and therefore had to be released. El-Mahroug later reported in a recorded conversation about regular orgies in Berlusconi's villa. But she later backtracked and claimed she made it all up.

Courts had unsuccessfully tried to prove that Berlusconi knew that el-Mahroug was a minor and had paid millions of dollars in hush money to a number of witnesses to cover up what happened at Berlusconi's house.

Prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano even described Berlusconi as a "sultan" who "gets his evenings going with a group of concubines, in the sense of sex slaves who entertained him for a fee". While some witnesses claimed nothing inappropriate happened at Berlusconi's private villa nightclub, others told of group sex with guests dressed as nuns.

Berlusconi had always described the alleged sex parties that became known as "Bunga Bunga" as "elegant dinners"; the money, houses and cars that witnesses got from him were, according to his defense attorneys, compensation for the damage to his reputation that the trial would bring. Berlusconi is on trial "for the crime of generosity" alone. The case kept Italy in suspense for more than a decade.

Berlusconi has dominated public life in Italy for decades in a variety of roles - not just as a politician, but also as a media mogul and longtime owner of football club AC Milan. He was prime minister three times between 1994 and 2011.

However, Berlusconi has also been a regular guest in court on dozens of allegations, but has won the vast majority of his trials and has never served time behind bars. After being convicted of tax evasion, he was banned from all political offices for a year. He then returned to the political arena and was re-elected as a Senator in 2022. His Forza Italia party is part of Giorgia Meloni's governing coalition.

The judges in Milan have to justify their verdict in writing within the next 90 days. The public prosecutor's office then has the opportunity to appeal.