US govt names Berlusconi on human trafficking report

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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi being cajoled by a female MP. Photo - AP

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been named in a US government report on human trafficking over hisalleged sexual relationship with underage Moroccan belly dancer Karima El Mahroug, also known as Ruby.

In February 2011, judges set a trial date for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the alleged commercial sexual exploitation of a Moroccan child, the report said. Based on media reports citing evidence of third party involvement in the case, the document’s authors came to the conclusion that the girl was a victim of trafficking.

Berlusconi, 75, is accused of having sexual relations with Ruby during one of his now infamous “bunga bunga” parties at his luxurious villa near Milan when the girl was only 17 years old. She is believed to have been one of more than 30 women to attend Berlusconis parties.

During the reporting period, the country’s (Italy) prime minister was investigated for facilitating child prostitution, the document published on the US Department of State website said.

The annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” is compiled from reports on human trafficking from 180 countries.

In Italy, opposition politicians immediately called the naming of Berlusconi as ‘another shameful insult’ for Italy. “The sleaze surrounding the Italian leader is turning the country into an international laughing stock,” the politicians said in a joint statement.

Leoluca Orlando of the Italy of Values party told the Daily Telegraph: “Throughout the world Berlusconi is known because of the Ruby affair. He is known for his smuttiness and now he has been named in this report which details human trafficking.

“This is an indecent calling card for Italy on the international stage because he is the only prime minster who is actually named as well – there is a real risk that the rest of the country will be tarred with the same brush.”

Berlusconi’s trial for underage prostitution is to resume in Milan next month. Both he and his alleged victim have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

In mid-October, Berlusconi, who has been facing repeated calls for his resignation from his political rivals,won a crucial confidence vote in parliament, which could have forced him to step down about one and half years before the end of his term.

DON JUAN ANTICS

Last week, in the midst of a crucial summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, the Italian prime minister was captured on camera greeting his Danish counterpart, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, with a Cheshire cat smile and casting an admiring glance at her bottom as she walked away.

Playing the Latin lover role may have endeared him to his fellow Italians in the past, but with the country firmly in the spotlight as the next domino at risk in the eurozone crisis, the 75-year-old’s Don Juan antics look extremely inappropriate.

Berlusconi had travelled to Brussels to present a plan for reform intended to revive Italy’s moribund economy and tackle its 1.8 trillion ($2.49 trillion) debt to convince the European Central Bank to continue buying its bonds and hold down Italy’s borrowing costs.

The emergency package included raising billions of euros by selling state-owned assets, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 and liberalising Italy’s calcified labour laws so that companies can get rid of unproductive employees more easily.

Even a quick look at the measures revealed they were less impressive than they first seemed.

The pensions reform, for instance, is due to be implemented so late that it will not be complete until 2026, by which time Berlusconi, if he is still alive, will be 90.

As so often with the prime minister, there was a yawning gap between rhetoric and reality.

There is profound doubt in Italy that many of the reforms will ever be implemented.

A front-page editorial inCorriere della Sera, one of the country’s most respected newspapers, noted “the scepticism in Europe that has always surrounded our resolutions comes from a deficit of credibility from which we now must free ourselves”.

In a lengthy analysis, the newspaper reckoned the probability of the various reforms ever being passed ranged from 50 per cent to a worryingly meagre 25 per cent.

Berlusconi added to that credibility deficit with an extraordinary outburst in which, after days of reassuring Europe that Italy was soberly committed to putting its house in order, he lashed out at the euro as “a strange currency” that “convinced nobody” remarks he later said had been “misinterpreted”.

The markets already have their doubts over what Berlusconi can deliver, pushing the country’s borrowing costs to record levels on Friday. The 6.06 per cent return investors demanded at an auction of 10-year bonds was the highest since the startof the euro.

Last week there was an unseemly brawl between MPs in parliament over the liberalisation package. His personal approval rating has plunged from 35pc to 24pc an all-time low.

Berlusconi is involved in three trials in his home town of Milan, charged with bribery, tax evasion and paying for sex with a 17-year-old exotic dancer nicknamed Ruby.

During three terms in office he has shown himself unwilling, or unable, to reform Italy’s creaking economy, byzantine judicial system and arcane labour laws, instead devoting too much time and energy to defending himself from his many legal entanglements.

“We are the sick man of Europe because the government is paralysed and unable to lead us towards a path of growth and reform,”La Stampa newspaper said in a recent editorial.

As a result, the country has been coasting into gentle decline for at least the past decade and the IMF has forecast that its GDP will rise by a paltry 0.3 per cent next year.

Italians are increasingly angry at their prime minister’s failure to act on the economy. Riots broke out in Rome earlier this month, with masked protesters smashing bank facades and setting fire to Carabinieri vans.

Sources: En.ria.ru, Dailymail, English.ruvr, Telegraph

Written by Sumita Katira; Edited by Moign Khawaja

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