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Ruby, decision on authorising search put off

'We help people who have problems' says premier's cash man

19 January, 14:27
Ruby, decision on authorising search put off (ANSA) - Rome, January 19 - A parliamentary panel on Wednesday put off for at least a week a decision on authorising a search of the offices of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's financial administrator, accused of paying young women including an underage Moroccan belly dancer called Ruby for sex with the premier.

The panel said it would only start examining a near-400-page request from Milan prosecutors to search Giuseppe Spinelli's offices on Tuesday, January 25.

Prosecutors say they have wiretap evidence that Spinelli paid young women, many of them aspiring showgirls, 5,000 euros each time they attended one of the premier's alleged sex parties.

The premier is also alleged to have provided the girls with free apartments at a housing complex built by media magnate Berlusconi when he was an up-and-coming entrepreneur in the late 1970s.

Berlusconi has refused calls to resign because of the case, dubbed Rubygate, in which he is also alleged to have abused his power in pressuring police to let Ruby out of custody after she was accused of theft.

"Are you mad?" he replied to reporters on Tuesday night.

The premier has also said he will refuse a summons to appear before magistrates on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, the days provided as options by the prosecutors.

Berlusconi claims, as he has repeatedly in the past, that he is the victim of biased magistrates who are trying to bring him down.

In 12 trials, the premier has never been definitively convicted, sometimes because of the statute of limitations or law changes made by his government.

He is currently facing three trials for alleged bribery, tax fraud and embezzlement.

Spinelli, who administrates the premier's personal finances, said on Wednesday the case had been been "blown-up".

"It's much simpler than it seems," he told Italian TV.

"We help people who have problems.

"Someone who is looking at it from the outside, I understand, may not understand.

"You have no idea how many people we have helped".