Berlusconi, bunga bunga and the surreal world of Italian politics. Silvio is not a player, he is a cad.

By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent
Monday, November 01, 2010
“BUNGA bunga” was the most popular phrase being used at the EU leaders’ summit last week.
It may not have been used around the table by any of the 27 leaders meeting to discuss the future fortunes of their half a billion citizens.

But among diplomats and journalists it was the best tension reliever in the building as everyone waited until well after 1am for the press conference.

Italian journalists were in great demand as one question led to another about the strange habits of their extraordinary prime minister.

Fiction could not have been more amazing than the facts now emerging in Italy’s latest scandal.

Well, what would you expect when the ingredients include Silvio Berlusconi; his long-time 79-year-old friend Emilio Fede who heads up Tg4, one of Berlusconi’s TV stations; and his former dental hygienist who Berlusconi ensured was elected as a regional councillor in last year’s elections.

Berlusconi has a well-known predilection for underage girls who he likes to call him “papi” and who, like an indulgent father, showers them with gifts.

Bunga bunga was originally a savage gang rape punishment inflicted by African tribes but has been apparently transmogrified into an after-dinner game for one naked man and a bevy of young naked women.

Apparently the prime minister was introduced to it by his friend Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator.

At the centre of the latest story is Ruby, a beautiful young daughter of Moroccan parents who live in Sicily. The details have been leaked by the police from her version of events. At least some of it has checked out, including the gifts of diamond studded watches – one with the inscription “It’s a good thing that Silvio is here”, gold crosses, necklaces, earrings, designer clothes and a nice car.

Last year, aged 16, she met the elderly director of Tg4 when he was judging a beauty contest. He introduced her to Lele Mora, a 55-year-old former hairdresser-turned-talent spotter and manager who has been before the courts lots of times for tax evasion.

Ruby, who apparently was living with foster parents, ran away to Milan where Mora gave her work in a disco bar as a belly dancer, which she said she learned from her mother.

Then on Valentine’s Day, Emilio took her in his car with a police escort through a side entrance into Berlusconi’s villa in Arcore, near Milan. Their host greeted her warmly and introduced her to the rest of the guests – all female.

The young women are mostly household names in Italy – from Berlusconi’s TV stations, stars and starlets, a few escorts, some single and not-so-single girls and two who are government ministers.

Nobody would be surprised at this mix given the prime minister’s habit of giving pretty girls jobs as either TV stars or politicians, or both. After dinner young Ruby was sent home with a gift from the prime minister of a black and white Swarovski crystal-decorated Valentino dress.

Her second visit, she told police, was also with Emilio to Berlusconi’s villa. Fede had already mentioned to her that she would be asked to stay overnight but not to worry, she would not be subjected to sexual overtures.

Silvio formally issued the invitation to her when she arrived and during the evening, when she was the only one wearing clothes, she served drinks to naked ladies and non-alcoholic ones to the naked septuagenarian prime minister who was the only male before they took part in a “bunga bunga” after dinner.

Her third dinner date with the prime minister was more sedate and the guests apparently included George Clooney and his Italian girlfriend. It was sometime after this that Ruby found herself in police custody, accused of stealing almost €3,000 from another escort.

The story might never have emerged had she not managed to contact Silvio who sent his friend, politician and former dental hygienist to have her released, explaining that Ruby was related to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. She was – but with the amount of detail she had already given police in her statement and considering how politicised every part of Italy’s public and private sector is, it is amazing it took almost five months to leak out.

Berlusconi – whose ex-wife said he was sick and needed help – as usual does not see anything wrong in this bizarre world of Italian politics that he has added to. Asked about his bunga bunga party during Friday’s summit, he laughed.

“Hey, every once in a while I need a relaxed evening as a kind of mental therapy,” he explained.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, November 01, 2010