ROME: Italian police were ordered to search for the erotic dancer at the centre of Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial after she failed to turn up for a court hearing.
Karima El Mahroug, whom the former prime minister is accused of paying for sex when she was an alleged underage prostitute, was due to testify in Milan.
But she failed to appear or send an explanation for her absence. Ms El Mahroug's lawyer said she had no idea where she was. "She sent me a text saying she was abroad but I have no information about this trip and I don't know when she will return," Paola Boccardi said.
The response infuriated prosecutors, who accused Mr Berlusconi's defence of trying to string out the trial so it would not reach a verdict before February, when elections are likely. Mr Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing.
A guilty verdict would be embarrassing for Mr Berlusconi, whose announcement that he will contest the next election precipitated the surprise resignation of the Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and raised fears that Italy would plunge once again into political and economic turmoil. The trial was adjourned to December 17.