MILAN -- Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's private disco featured not only aspiring showgirls performing striptease acts as sexy nuns and nurses, but one woman dressed up as President Barack Obama, according to the first public sworn testimony by a Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal.
Karima el-Mahroug's testimony Friday at the trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused of procuring her and other women for prostitution confirms a sexually charged atmosphere at the "bunga bunga" parties of the then-sitting premier. The trial is separate from the one in which Berlusconi, a billionaire media mogul, is charged with paying for sex with a minor -- el-Mahroug when she was 17 -- and trying to cover it up.
El-Mahroug, now 20, said she attended about a half-dozen parties, using her nickname Ruby, and that after each, Berlusconi handed her an envelope with up to $3,900. She said she later received $39,000 from Berlusconi paid through an intermediary -- money that she told him she wanted to use to open a beautician salon despite having no formal training.
But she denied that Berlusconi had ever given her $6.43 million. She said she told acquaintances and even her father that she was going to receive that sum "as a boast," but that it was a lie to make her seem more important.
The three Berlusconi aides -- Emilio Fede, an executive in Berlusconi's media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario "Lele" Mora -- are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor. They deny the charges.
Both el-Mahroug and Berlusconi deny having had sex.