sex

The sordid reality of a PM's sex-crazed parties: 'There were 20-year-old girls who were worn out.'

People the world over are appalled and fascinated in equal measure by the stratospheric political career of the tycoon and three-time Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. In a new biography Being Berlusconi, Michael Day examines the life and crimes of the shameless media mogul and sheds light on the infamous Bunga Bunga parties.

The events around Karima El Mahroug’s May 27 arrest and her interviews with the authorities must have set alarm bells ringing for Berlusconi. But the sex-crazed prime minister was having too much fun to stop.

Karima El Mahroug. Image: Getty.

On August 22, his talent spotter Fede brought to Arcore two new and beautiful young women, Ambra Battilana and Chiara Danese, whom he had wooed with promises of jobs as meteorine—the completely unqualified, but sexy, girls who presented the weather reports on his wretched TG4 news show. The account Battilana and Danese gave to magistrates of their evening at the mogul’s mansion provided some of the most eye-opening and probably most credible descriptions of Berlusconi’s “elegant dinners.”

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Ambra: We entered the house and found ourselves in front of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He had two trays in his hands. One had rings on it. He said they were Tiffany, but I realized they were just trinkets. He offered them as gifts. Just then loads of girls arrived. They all started to take gifts from the trays. The girls had a very informal attitude with the prime minister. They were ex- cited. The prime minister introduced himself to Chiara and me and seemed pleased to meet us. He told us we were beautiful. We reciprocated the compliments. Berlusconi clearly found us attractive.

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Chiara: The soiree began with the dinner. We were all seated around the table, about 15 of us, with Fede and Berlusconi and me and Ambra I remember Roberta Bonasia, Marysthell Polanco who I’d see on the TV in Colorado Café the two Neapolitan twins (Eleonora and Imma De Vivo) from Celebrity Island [a reality show]; a girl from Cuba, who called herself Lisa, who swiftly showed a homosexual interest in me; a tall blonde woman, who sang during the dinner; a large-breasted woman; and a fairly tall brunette, whom I later realized was Nicole Minetti; two black girls, who were rather vulgar and dressed indecently - when I saw them I immediately thought they were prostitutes; a rather tall gentleman, who wasn’t presented to us; and another guy who played the piano; and another older woman of about 50.

Fede sat between Ambra and me and touched our legs the whole time. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed and exchanged anxious looks with Ambra. The prime minister didn’t eat anything and continued to tell obscene jokes - they were so disgusting it put me off my food. But everyone else was laughing out loud and at a certain point, the song “Meno Male Che Silvio C’é” [“Thank Goodness for Silvio”] began and all the girls started to dance around the table.

Ambra outside the trial. Image: Getty
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Ambra: Marysthell said that if Berlusconi noticed me it would make my career. Emilio Fede told me that the twins from Naples had received a payment of €3,000 each to participate in the dinner. Berlusconi kept looking at Chiara and me. He dedicated songs in French and Italian to us. The worst was yet to come. Fifteen minutes after we’d sat down, some of the girls uncovered their breasts, offering them to Berlusconi so he could kiss them. They also touched the prime minister’s intimate parts and made him touch theirs. While this was happening, the girls were still singing “thank goodness for Silvio!” and calling the prime minister “Papi” and Berlusconi called all of us “my little girls, my little girls.”

Chiara: After the umpteenth obscene joke, Berlusconi brings in a statue, it’s in a kind of case. From it emerges a little man with a huge penis. The statuette is the size of a half-litre bottle of water. Its penis is disproportionately big. Berlusconi begins passing it around among the girls. And he asks them to kiss the penis. They kiss it and simulate oral sex with it, or they approach him with bared breasts. They all laugh. Ambra and I don’t take part in indecent games. The girls, visibly happy, start to approach the prime minister, they make him kiss their breasts and they touch him ... they do the same with Emilio Fede. At a certain point, the prime minister, visibly content, asks: “Are you ready for bunga bunga?” The girls shout together: “Yessss!!!” Ambra and I didn’t know what bunga bunga was, even if the statue gave it away. I felt agitated and unwell.

At that point Chiara asked Emilio Fede for some chamomile tea - although a cab home would have seemed a more obvious request to make. But, in an attempt to reassure them, Berlusconi took the startled guests for a tour of his pleasure dome; the young women noticed that the walls were adorned with placards reading “Long live Silvio.” They entered the disco room, equipped, as any reasonably upgraded seventeenth-century villa would be, with a pole-dancing platform. Berlusconi, the perfect host, remained close behind Ambra and Chiara, patting their buttocks.

Chiara leaving the trial.  Image:Getty.
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Ambra: Berlusconi showed us the swimming pool and the gym and said that the next time, he’d organise a party in the pool, so that we could be more intimate and get to know each other better.

Nadia Macrì, 27, a hooker who partied at Arcore, told investigators she had sex with Berlusconi in the swimming pool, in an underwater bunga bunga session. She added the encounter also involved a girl who was “very, very young.” But it was the disco room that seemed to be the usual center of the action.

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Chiara: In the little discothèque with the pole in the middle and the little sofas, and a DJ in the corner, the girls began to dance in a rather vulgar way. They lifted up the skirts and showed their bottoms. Some were dressed as nurses—like the twins from Naples and Bonasia, who had a whip in her hand. The nurse outfits were very short with little red crosses, caps and breasts exposed and white underwear on view. And the girls without uniforms showed their buttocks and breasts. Dancing, they approached him, touched him and made him touch them, it was the game that Berlusconi called “bunga bunga.”

Nicole Minetti. Image: @nicoleminettireal.

Ambra: At a certain point, Nicole Minetti put on a performance. She was dressed in one of those outfits that you rip off. She was completely nude and dancing around the pole. Once she was nude she approached Berlusconi, and dancing in a provocative way, put her ass in his face. Then she spun around and put her breasts against his mouth and the prime minister kissed them. The other girls tried to join in this dance started by Fede and Berlusconi. Behind me I heard remarks such as: “What have these two come for?” All the girls came around us, touching us, trying to remove our clothes, they were touching us everywhere.

Chiara: Fede and Berlusconi encouraged the girls to involve us in the game, saying: “Go on, take your clothes off, go, take them off, dance.” At this point we were literally terrified. We wanted to leave, but didn’t know how to. Our discomfort was obvious. Building up the courage, we said to Fede: “We really want to go.”

Fede gave it to them straight: “If you want to go, fine. But don’t think you’ll be a meteorina or Miss Italia.” They left anyway.

*****

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Before long we found out how the Arcore soirees proceeded after the bunga bunga stage - not that it was difficult to guess. One of the Papi girls, Diana Gonzales, was heard on the magistrates’ recordings talking about a particularly rowdy night on October 2. “There was a stack of girls— there was nowhere to sleep. And that scoundrel didn’t take me to his room to sleep.”

The lucky winner of bunga bunga that evening appeared to have been a woman named Aris, whom Gonzales bumped into the next morning. Aris had a smile on her face because she’d “received twice as much as expected.” The mountains of recordings and witness statements suggest the dinner guests, who merely pushed their food around the plate before stripping and fondling the prime minister, got an envelope stuffed with €2,000 to €3,000 ($2,600–$4,000) for their trouble. But an overnight stay bagged them at least €5,000 ($6,500).

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Any doubts about the grimness of the Arcore bacchanalias were dispelled by other recordings, interviews that spoke of the young guests vomiting, and testimony that described women arguing and fighting to win Berlusconi’s lucrative affections. The mogul demonstrated his peculiar mix of rapaciousness and fastidiousness by frequently sending girls off “to wash themselves because they smelt bad.”

Prosecutors recorded one female guest describing the aftereffects of an orgy: “There were 20-year-old girls there who were worn out, dead.” Another, who had taken and passed an HIV test, commented, “When someone goes to bed with 80 women you never know.”

Journalist, Emilio Fede.

As the tawdry details continued to leak out, some of the protagonists saw there was even more money to be made.

In particular El Mahroug, as an underage participant in the paid-for sex fests, appeared to realise the prime minister was potentially in calamitous trouble. That might explain why, by September, her phone calls to Spinelli, Berlusconi’s trusted accountant and paymaster, asking for more money seemed ever more shrill. In one of these almost daily calls she spoke of the situation becoming “almost critical.

When the scandal hit the front pages and Berlusconi realized the full gravity of the situation, he instructed a team of lawyers to put the young Moroccan on a leash. She continued to act unpredictably, however. She was also getting greedy.

“I spoke to Silvio and I told him that I expect to come out of all this with at least something,” she told a friend. “I mean getting €5 million.” Berlusconi had already given her €60,000 to help her open a beauty salon, and probably €300,000 worth of gifts, including a diamond necklace. But a when a teen tearaway from a troubled background finds herself with what one of her lawyers would later describe as “the opportunity of a lifetime,” what did the prime minister expect?

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Berlusconi continued to deny that he’d ever paid for sex. He even attempted to brazen things out and relieve the political pressure with a few lame jokes. It was “better to be passionate about beautiful women than be gay,” he said.

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And before the trial, while on a tour of the island of Lampedusa in the spring of 2011, he exhumed an old gag, in which pollsters supposedly ask women if they would have sex with him: “30 per cent said ‘yes,’ ” he said, “while 70 per cent replied, ‘What, again?’

Inevitably, he claimed that left-wing investigators were orchestrating a plot against him. His supporters accused prosecutors and the prime minister’s critics of interfering in his private life and moralising when they had no right. The charge of moralising might have carried more weight if Berlusconi hadn’t spent so much of the previous 20 years sucking up to the Catholic Church and making pious pronouncements of his own. In May 2007, even as a game of musical beds was being played in his Sardinian villa, Berlusconi hit out at progressive Catholics who supported civil partnerships for gays and for heterosexuals who didn’t wish to marry, describing such partnerships as an attack on the traditional Church and the family.

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“You can’t be a Catholic - and therefore follow the doctrine of the church - and at the same time align yourself with the other side. We say ‘no’ to this caricature of marriage.”

But Berlusconi must have known that revelations about his dissolute private life meant the two-decade war with magistrates was entering dark new territory. Boccassini and company weren’t investigating the usual financial crimes; they were looking at the less-salubrious-sounding charges of sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office - crimes that were punishable by 3 and 12 year jail terms, respectively. And, unlike the tax fraud and bribery allegations against him, this case didn’t involve complex, decades-old accounting trails spread over several continents. It was recent, clamorous - and there was no chance of the charges being killed by the statute of limitations.

El Mahroug denied from the outset, and continues to deny, that she ever had sex with the prime minister. But she would present the defense with a particular problem if called to the stand. The mogul’s lawyers wanted the court to believe the young woman’s declaration that she and Berlusconi had never had sex. At the same time, the defense wanted the court to disbelieve El Mahroug’s description of rampant sexual activity at the bunga bunga parties - it was very important to the defense to prove that the parties were relatively innocent.

Due to a key legal technicality, the prosecution could win a conviction on the sex with a minor charge simply by showing that El Mahroug had been present and in the thick of things at the tycoon’s bacchanalias .

This is an edited extract from Being Berlusconi by Michael Day published by Black Inc, RRP $29.99
Michael Day is a London-born journalist with almost twenty years of experience. He has lived in Italy for the past seven years, and been Italy Correspondent for The Independent for the last six years. He has also covered Milan for the US weekly Variety, and written features from Italy for the Wall Street Journal.