The latest sex scandal threatening Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has deepened after a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer linked to him said he had given her 7,000 euros (US$9,700) and jewelery at a Valentine’s Day dinner this year for 10 women at his mansion near Milan.
The girl, named in the Italian media as Karima Keyek, but known more widely by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori, or “Stealer of Hearts,” denies sleeping with Berlusconi.
“It the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear,” she told La Repubblica from Genoa, where she is hiding out in an apartment allegedly lent to her by a former porn star.
However, she has painted a vivid portrait of private parties held by the 74-year-old prime minister, known by the Italian media as lavish affairs that often transformed into “bunga bunga” sessions involving after-dinner sex between male and female guests.
In La Repubblica on Saturday, she said her host had told her not to come to see him any more after discovering she was not, as she had claimed, 24 years old.
Keyek told Oggi magazine: “Silvio took me upstairs. He wanted to help me. He told me that he wouldn’t ask anything in return. He gave me an envelope with 7,000 euros in it and I told him I dreamed of gaining Italian citizenship and becoming a policewoman.”
“It was like going to the church charity where they give you a bag of shopping,” she told La Repubblica.
Last year Veronica Lario, the prime minister’s second wife, accused him of “frequenting minors” and announced she was leaving him after he attended the 18th birthday party of aspiring model Noemi Letizia. Berlusconi claimed to be an old friend of the girl’s family.
His popularity boosted by the rescue effort in earthquake-stricken Abruzzo, he also managed to shrug off later claims by escort Patrizia D’Addario that he had slept with her.
The new revelations come amid a slump in his approval ratings sparked by the defection of his ally Gianfranco Fini, a rise in unemployment and the return of the Naples garbage crisis.
And they have once again sparked speculation about his fitness to lead: The Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana queried his mental health on Friday, referring to his wife’s fear that he had an “uncontrollable” illness, “permitted, or even encouraged, by his power and his enormous wealth.”
Berlusconi has tried to laugh off media criticisms of his lifestyle.
“I am a playful person, full of life. I love life, I love women,” he said, confirming that Keyek had been his guest.
However, he has denied the part of the scandal reportedly of most interest to prosecutors: claims that he pressured Milan police to release Keyek when she was arrested on suspicion of stealing 3,000 euros from a friend in May.
Yesterday the respected Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that Berlusconi had personally informed a senior police official that Keyek was related to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi says he merely told police he was dispatching a colleague to take temporary custody of Keyek should she be released.