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'Never said Ruby was over 18' says Moroccan minister

Berlusconi appealing conviction for sex with underage prostitute

29 January, 13:07
'Never said Ruby was over 18' says Moroccan minister (ANSA) - Rome, January 29 - A Moroccan minister has denied reports he said Karima 'Ruby' El Mahroug was not under-age when ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi paid to have sex with her.

"I don't know Ruby's birth date, I don't know Karima and I don't know when she met Berlusconi, so if she was an adult or a minor," Civil Service Minister Mohamed Moubdii told Italian radio Tuesday.

Three-time premier Berlusconi is appealing against a seven-year prison sentence he was handed last year for paying for sex with Ruby, before she was 18, between February and May 2010 and for abusing his office to try to cover up the affair.

Earlier on Monday Moubdii was quoted by Arabic website Akhbarona as saying El Mahroug was legally an adult in February 2010.

"Ruby was of age," Akhbarona quoted Moubdii as saying in an interview.

"Mohammed Moubdii asserts that it was he himself who signed the birth certificate of Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby, in 1992, when he was the president of the Al Fakih Bensalih district," read the website, which cited newspaper Al Akhbar as the source of the interview.

On Tuesday the minister denied this, as well as claims he had sent the birth certificate to Italy.

After calls from Berlusconi supporters for prosecutor to "apologise" to Berlusconi, the Milan's prosecutors office said Monday there was no doubt that El Mahroug was underage at the time because they have evidence from her passport and from wiretapped conversations in which she talks about her 18th birthday, on November 1, 2010. Berlusconi and two of his lawyers, Niccolo' Ghedini and Piero Longo, have been put under investigation over suspicions they corrupted witnesses during a trial related to the allegations, Milan prosecutors said Thursday.

El Mahroug is under investigation for allegedly taking bribes to give favourable testimony for the ex-premier, prosecutors said.

Many other women who denied in court that Berlusconi hosted sex parties at his home near Milan are among 45 people probed too.

The 77-year-old billionaire vowed to keep fighting and stay in politics on Thursday after his multiple legal troubles worsened with the announcement of the new probe.

"I'm here and I'm staying here," said the centre-right leader, who remains at the helm of his Forza Italia party despite being ejected from parliament last year after the supreme court upheld a separate tax-fraud conviction, making it definitive.

Berlusconi says he is the victim of a campaign of persecution by left-wing elements in the judiciary who are trying to wipe him from the political arena.

The tax-fraud conviction was the first definitive one Berlusconi received in two decades of legal battles.