Italy's former longest serving Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is perhaps better known for the myriad of controversies which have plagued his rule than for his political legacy. Involved in over 20 court cases during his career, — including tax evasion and various sex scandals —the billionaire media mogul has finally been found guily in his sex-for-hire trial; Bringing an end to his twenty year political career with a lofty prison term. Here are the facts you need to know about this verdict and its implication.
1. He is Guilty of Paying an Underaged Girl for Sex
Berlusconi was found guilty of paying for sex with 17-year-old nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, better known under her stage name "Ruby the Heartstealer." The girl has denied having sex with the former Prime Minister. El-Mahroug moved to a small town in Sicily from Morocco in 2003 where she lived with her father, housewife mother and three younger siblings before running away from home at 14.
Even though El-Mahroug was called to testify by the defense she failed to show on a couple of occasions effectively delaying the trial. Berlusconi's team eventually dropped her from the witness list. In another trial involving Berlusconi's aides, El-Mahrouf said that she attended various "sex parties" at Berluscini's villa and that after each, Berlusconi gave her 3,0000 euros. She later received 30m000 euros in cash.
2. He Tried to Cover it Up
Berluscoin apparantly used his political influence and made phone calls to Milan police officials to cover up the case. He is also guilty for arranging to have Karime El Mahroug released from police custody when she was detained in a separate theft case. Berlusconi rang the police station and told officials to release her, claiming she was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi later said he had no idea Ruby was not Mubarak's niece and that it was all part of a series of lies the teenager told him, including fibbing about her age.
3. He Hosted Infamous Sex-Fueld 'Bunga Bunga' Parties
The charges against the billionaire media mogul stem from the "bunga bunga" parties in 2010 at his mansion near Milan, where he wined and dined beautiful young women. He says the dinner parties were elegant soirees; prosecutors say they were sex-fueled parties that women were paid to attend. In a separate trial of three Berlusconi aides charges with paying for sex at a 'Bunga Bunga' party, El-Mahrouf told the court that Berlusoni's parties featured aspiring showgirls dressed as "sexy nuns" and "nurses" performing stripper acts. She added that one woman even dressed up as President Barack Obama.
4. Berlusconi is Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison
Berlusconi had already been sentenced to four years in prison in a tax fraud case in 2012. Berlusconi is also barred from holding any form of public office for life. Having said that, are two more levels of appeal before the sentence would become final, a process that can take months. The 7 year sentence was even harsher than the six-year prison term and lifetime ban on public office that prosecutors had originally requested.
5. Verdict Adds to Complications in the Current Government
Berlusconi holds no official post in the current Italian government, but remains influential in the uneasy cross-party coalition that emerged after inconclusive elections in February. According to Reuters, the guilty verdict adds to mounting complications facing Prime Minister Enrico Letta, whose fragile left-right coalition government is supported by Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party.