Prosecutors said yesterday that they will request a trial against embattled Premier Silvio Berlusconi over accusations he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then used his influence to try to cover it up.
Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said he would file the request with the Milan court later today, when prosecutors would consider both accusations, and whether they would be tried separately or simultaneously.
It is alleged Berlusconi paid for sex with a young Moroccan, nicknamed Ruby, who has since turned 18, and then used his influence to get her out of police custody when she was detained for the suspected theft of thousands of euros allegedly fearing his relationship to her would be revealed.
She ultimately was released into the custody of a Berlusconi aide who also is under investigation.
Supporters have never denied Berlusconi called Milan police over the incident, but maintain it was to avoid a diplomatic incident as he believed at the time the girl was the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Berlusconi himself said he made the phone call out of the goodness of his heart.
Berlusconi (74) has been dogged by scandals related to his relationships with young women and parties at his villa. He denies ever having paid for sex and has accused prosecutors of seeking to drive him from office.
Ruby has said they never had sex, though she says he gave her €7,000 on their first meeting and jewellery later.
Prosecutors have been considering a speedy trial for the abuse of power charge, which would skip the preliminary hearing phase if they believe there is overwhelming supporting evidence. But it is also possible they would keep the two charges together.
Bruti Liberati issued a statement last night saying that Berlusconi's case has been formally separated from charges against three of his aides accused of helping procure the prostitutes.
The move paves the way for the indictment requests today and suggests that prosecutors may be moving toward a speedy trial on at least one of the charges — Berlusconi has been under investigation since December.
Prosecutors have alleged in documents forwarded to parliament that “a significant number of young girls have prostituted themselves with Silvio Berlusconi”.
Parliament last week denied a request to search Berlusconi's properties for evidence in the case, and challenged the prosecutors' jurisdiction.
Berlusconi's defence maintains case jurisdiction rests with the Tribunal of Ministers, a three-member special tribunal set up to deal with alleged offenses committed by public officials in the execution of their duties.