Berlusconi still paying women, court told
High profile ... Maria Stella Gelmini, second left, and Mara Carfagna, second right, with two colleagues at their swearing-in ceremony as ministers in 2008. Photo: Getty Images
ROME: Women giving evidence on behalf of Silvio Berlusconi in his sex trial are still receiving large cash payments from the former prime minister, a court in Milan heard on Monday.
Miriam Loddo, an actress and model alleged to have attended Mr Berlusconi's so-called "bunga bunga" parties, told the court he was paying her €2500 ($3000) a month.
I receive €2500 a month because I know Silvio Berlusconi, because I have a little girl and because after the scandal I was portrayed as a whore.
The billionaire businessman has said in the past that he pays the young women because their lives were "ruined" by prosecutors' allegations that they were prostitutes whom he paid for sex.
Accused ... Silvio Berlusconi with Mara Carfagna during his time as prime minister. Photo: Reuters
In a separate but closely related trial last Friday, a group of young women confirmed that they too continued to receive generous sums from Mr Berlusconi and that he often paid their rent.
Eleonora De Vivo, Marysthelle Polanco, Elisa Toti, Ioana Visan and Aris Espinoza all allegedly attended the gatherings at Mr Berlusconi's mansion at Arcore, outside Milan.
"I receive €2500 a month because I know Silvio Berlusconi, because I have a little girl and because after the scandal I was portrayed as a whore," Ms Polanco said.
Ms Visan said Mr Berlusconi had also given her a one-off gift of €10,000.
Ms Toti denied the girls had engaged in any sexual activities at the parties, saying that "at most girls stripped down to their underwear" and that the phrase "bunga bunga" was just a joke among the female guests.
Mr Berlusconi, who resigned a year ago, is accused of abuse of office and paying for sex with an alleged under-age prostitute, Karima El Mahrouga, a dancer who called herself Ruby the Heart Stealer. He denies the allegations.
Two high profile witnesses appeared at the hearing on Monday – Maria Stella Gelmini, who was education minister in Mr Berlusconi's last government, and Mara Carfagna, a model whom he appointed equal opportunities minister.
Ms Mahrouga had claimed that both attended parties, specifically one held on Valentine's Day, 2010.
Questioned by Mr Berlusconi's defence lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, Ms Gelmini said she had been to the former prime minister's villa near Milan several times but "always for work" and never when "young girls were present".
Ms Carfagna said she had never been to the villa outside Milan "in my life" and that she had never met the teenage dancer.
Liza Barizonte, a Cuban model, said the parties at Mr Berlusconi's home had involved "theatrical spectaculars" where women performed "erotic but not sexual dances".
The women dressed up as nurses and schoolgirls and in "Arabian" costumes, she said.
Ms Barizonte, who said she sometimes spent the night at the villa, said she too received €2500 a month from Mr Berlusconi.
If convicted of the two charges he could be jailed for up to 15 years.