Sultan Berlusconi on Trial

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Silvio Berlusconi will be the first head of a G-7 state to be arraigned in court on charges of paid sex with a minor.

A few days ago, the court from Milan issued a subpoena for the Italian premiere, on a charge that could carry a penalty of 15 years of prison. This April 6, sugar daddy Silvio will face three adult female judges from Milan, the Italian women that the press here in Italy call his "Nemesis."

A right wing commentator of the TG1, one of the TV channels owned and controlled by Berlusconi himself, said: I believe in his innocence, but by the time he proves that, his reputation will be gone forever. And to tell the truth he worked hard on that himself! What on earth did he think he was doing when he meddled with minors and showgirls?

The Church as well as Catholic believers are divided. It's not about sex, says one of the high ranked church officials: hardly any Italian anymore confesses those misdeeds as sins. It's his way of doing it. Then there's the hardcore of Italian machismo, who aspire to that level of misbehavior themselves, and frankly admire Berlusconi for his orgies.

"Ruby The Heartstealer," the Moroccan illegal belly-dancing minor, was the last-known in the lengthy chain of Berlusconi's sweethearts. Ruby may have triggered a final avalanche of shameful publicity that will crush the lascivious premiere... but, Ruby nevertheless just cheerily appeared in Italian television, in black lingerie, peddling a tell-all book. Italians have always adored sexy foreign girls: Belen Rodriguez, the Argentinian top model, is the star of the Sanremo music festival although she cannot sing, and also the spokesmodel for a wireless Internet service, though her appeal is by no means high-tech. Italy's high-fashion business puts a premium on female beauty, not to mention a bald market price.

So what did Berlusconi do so wrong in his unfortunate dalliance with Ruby, and the numerous other girls that he invited to his home and paid generously? The court in Milan issued 27 pages of evidence. Ruby was a minor when she was partying "bunga bunga" style at his place, and he knew it. Ruby was caught stealing from friends, and he freed her from the police although the cops had her in custody as a minor. Ruby was an illegal immigrant, and he smilingly promised to forge her papers for her.

Finally, he arranged to deceive the Italian police by absurdly claiming that Ruby was the niece of recently deposed president Hosni Mubarak, in order to set her free. In short, Berlusconi abused his political position and flouted the law so as to keep his harem running smoothly. This cost him hundreds of thousands of euros given away to girls as presents, cars, and lodgings. Ruby at a certain point asked for 5 million euros in hush money, and that didn't seem to be a problem.

Berlusconi answered to the subpoena with a stonewalled denial and a large smile: he refuses to speak to press about sex scandals, he bluntly refuses the authority of the Milanese court, and has no fears of the consequences to the state or himself. He is trying however to move the case away from the court in Milan to a kinder jurisdiction that he can control, or possibly buy.

Last night, at the festival of Sanremo, the Oscar wining Italian author and actor Roberto Benigni, gave a long, emotional speech about the subject of a united Italy. March 17, 2011 is the sesquicentennial of the country's unity, and San Remo was draped in tricolor Italian flags. 2011 is a symbolic year for Italian democracy and the Italian national way of life.

The new economic data are showing Italy as the slowest-growing EU country. The expectations of Italian young people are very low, if not nonexistent. The nation is torn by the anti-federalist demands of right-wing parties, which want to split the country into rich regions (theirs) and poor regions (everyone else). Long-standing cultural differences among Italian regions are being exaggerated and manipulated, as the power-brokers quarrel over the shares of a pie that grows smaller. Petty regional bosses are fighting for more autonomy and their own power centers.

Divide and reign, united we stand. We are stronger together, said Benigni in his moving speech. He analyzed word by word an idealistic poem written by a twenty-year-old Risorgimento martyr for Italian unity: the Italian anthem. We cannot give democracy away, we cannot squander it, Benigni appealed.

Today, Wikileaks on Italy is published by major dailies. These leaks from the American state department have become a kind of news agency that bluntly states truths about Italy that every Italian already knows. Americans are increasingly worried about Italian national stability, and not merely because of its leader's reckless sex scandals. His relationship to the autocratic Putin, his prolonged overtures to the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi, his crooked money interests, organized corruption methods and mafia connections... His rude remarks to other heads of state and his sheer unpredictability all worry the American Big Brother. But he is still useful, they conclude.

Meanwhile, in a YouTube clip mentioned on the front pages of all the Italian press, Roberto Benigni is singing, with his quivering tender voice, the anthem to the tricolor flag inspired by the legendary Dante and his vision of beautiful Beatrice. Next to this glorious peak of Italian high culture, we have excerpts of the young Moroccan girl's evidence, where she explains that: "Bungabunga" means an orgy of nude dancing girls. This jolly term was borrowed from Gadhafi by the premiere's amazing seedy entourage of pimps and madames, most of them happily employed in Italian political life, when not busy catering to Berlusconi's private amusements. Bungabunga participants get power and money in the all-too-blatant privacy of the sultan' s castle, and in Italian public life as well; they fight the outside world to protect their cozy racket, and fight each other inside over their share of the spoils.

The Italian women of all ages and views, who held a one-million demonstration a few days ago all over Italy, protested that the sultan of the nation has no right to transform Italy into a bordello. It's a democratic state and a major Western power, not a brothel for an ultra-wealthy mogul. But to say that and to prove it are two different things. Is Italy just a "geographical expression," as the foreign diplomats used to say before the Risorgimento?

Jasmina: blog, Twitter


  1. I am an italian living and working in a distant country, driven away because of the social landscape of my beloved homeland. I just want to say that often I find articles written by foreigners to be missing the point, or grossly misinformed if not tinted by downright jealousy. It’s not the case with this article… it’s very well done and I’ll be forwarding it to all my english-speaking friends. Thank you. :)


  2. @metafactory: I can only guess, but…
    Because of his harem? Apparently the girls lived together in a single residential complex… or serraglio, if you like.

  3. Jon Stewart did a fairly funny bit on this last night … (I say fairly, the first part was hilarious, the last bit with the corespondents could have been better)

    Since the ‘link share’ or any other share on never seems to work for me … just look for ‘La Douche Vita’

  4. This article is well-done, but I have to confess something…

    I read this right after watching the honey badger video posted above it, and I was halfway through the article when I realized that I was mentally reading it in the voice of that narrator.


  5. Applaudito Benigni… very moving rendition of the anthem as a lament. It is very painful to watch what is happening in Italy under Berlusconi. Although, let’s be honest, he’s just the culmination of the decline that has been going on for a while now. But even more painful, seems to be the general resignation among many Italians to accept this new status quo.

  6. tank for this post!!

    I’m an italian blogger and Silvio Berlusconi not isn’t my President!!

    tank for this post!!

  7. Don’t be so confident about that. Sadly that bastard is working on a law he calls a “justice reform” that once approved will keep him out of trials.
    My only hope is that everyone saw the power of the masses in those middle east revolts. Somebody over here should have learned enough on how to deal with criminals in power.

  8. TG1 is not owned by Berlusconi but is on the First Public Tv Channel and with the Second Channel is controlled by the government and of course by Berlusconi.
    Berlusconi has three channels of his own (Canale5, Italia 1 and Rete 4).

  9. Silvio, you are so screwed.

    It always amazes me that these people in such high-profile positions manage to do the most obvious career-ending, jail-baiting dumb-ass shit as if (and I guess they really do) expect to never get caught.

    Something about the Brobdingnagian egos that got them to such high positions in the first place, I guess. . .

    But if you want to have under-age orgies, or have sex in mens bathrooms, or insider trade your stocks or smoke meth in the back of an ambulance with a live squid on your head: why not wait until out of office (or at least on vacation?)

    Save all that crazy, illegal shit for when NOT directly in the Public Eye! If any of these famous people had just ASKED me (Bill! Martha! all you closeted GOP guys!) I coulda told ’em.

    The Chutzpah of this Berlesque-oni is quite frankly amazing: I think the price he will pay will come as a severe shock to his warped self-image.

  10. @gwailo_joe: Certainly you may be right and we’ll see of course.

    However note that Berlesconi has been in power for a loooong time, faced numerous allegations of corruption and sleaze and still enjoys a substantial majority of public support according to polls.

    On the one hand I feel like joining in with the haters but on the other hand I have a grudging admiration for the man and the seemingly effortless way he schmoozes and plays to the Italian people.

    Trust me, in reality it isn’t effortless of course. But as part of a manufactured aura to inspire the masses and cut down his opponents – well, clearly the man is a masterful personality. How many other leaders can you think of that have had this much publicity regarding sleaze and corruption and not only stayed in power but stayed massively popular?

  11. A little mistake: “A right wing commentator of the TG1, one of the TV channels owned and controlled by Berlusconi himself”.
    That’s not true: TG1 is a RAI1 program, one of the public channels of national RAI network.
    It is surely influenced by Berlusconi’s political power but not actually “owned”: it’s a public broadcast, not one of the Mediaset channels (Canale 5, Rete 4, Italia 1 etc) in possession of him and his family.
    Anyway, thanks, a very good article.

  12. @anon rightright thanks
    but it is so controlled that i made that lapsus
    its hardly a public service… (reminds me of serbian first channel during milosevic) sometimes even more catholic than the pope!

  13. @matteoc, thanks but
    i grew up in italy, i studied in Milan, lived in Rome, here I am now often in Turin…
    even though i don’t have italian citizenship ( la semi clandestina) or italian blood (whatever that means) i consider myself half italian…for good or bad…

  14. It’s not entirely clear where the quote from the right-wing commenter ends. Quotes would be welcome.

  15. Jasmina, you had an actual error in saying that “anti-federalists” want to split the country, while in fact it is “federalists” that want that. But it’s not really important.

    What is really important is that the sex scandals are not the gravest crimes by Berlusconi, but just the excuse to finally bring him to trial. In fact, there are much worse accusations (most of them wholly supported by many evidences) of his involvement in everything from being a middleman for the mafia to having ordered the assassinations of judges and journalists.

    Thanks for letting the woes of Italy be known to the free world!

  16. I thought it was a little funny that in a country sprung from the Roman empire and raised on Roman/Greek mythology they were comparing the three female judges to Nemesis rather than the probably more accurate Alecto of the Erinyes.

  17. Actually, “Ruby the Heartstealer” is not advertising a tell-all book. That would be way too linear. Instead, she’s advertising a looney pamphlet (“Il labirinto femminile”) written by a lawyer, a former member of the european parlament, which deals with the “sentimentalistic strategism that has interfered with the growth of human kind” (and should be somehow linked with conspiracy theories about banking and seigniorage).
    Another ad for the book was presented by celebrity agent Lele Mora, who is also under investigation for the “bungabunga parties”…

  18. As a side note, Berlusconi and the Italian “government” in general are the only EU institutions NOT to condemn Qaddafi’s civil war.

    Why? But it’s simple… in Berlusconi’s own words: “I don’t want to disturb a friend”.

    Could any free country please help Italy out of this dictature of fools?

  19. @anon
    I meant antifederalism in this sense

    but this is the italian way of dealing with it

    reminds me of milosevic’s way of using communist internationalist language to pack a nationalist bomb

    @ anon again
    in the last few months numerous enterprises with bunga bunga name have sprung: from groceries to sex shops…if berlusconi ever steps down that will be his legacy to the nation…we will all bunga bunga for ever

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