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Silvio Berlusconi called to testify in Bari escorts trial

Escorts among those admitted as civil plaintiffs

27 March, 19:06
Silvio Berlusconi called to testify in Bari escorts trial (ANSA) - Bari, March 27 - A court in the southern Italian city of Bari on Thursday called ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi to testify in a case against seven defendants who allegedly supplied him with dozens of women for sex parties in exchange for public contracts.

The billionaire media mogul, who is not being tried in this case, in December was asked to take the witness stand by the defendants, who include Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini and German actress Sabina Began, known by the nickname 'Queen Bee'.

Charges against them include the aiding and exploitation of prostitution of 26 women, many of them escorts, who between 2008 and 2009 were brought to the residences of then premier Berlusconi.

The Bari judge also admitted all injured parties as civil plaintiffs in the trial, many of whom are professional escorts.

The judge has called the women victims whose "freedom and human dignity" had been harmed.

One of them, Patrizia D'Addario, told the court through tears in February that the experience ruined the past five years of her life.

A high-profile escort, D'Addario participated in a few of the "bunga bunga" parties at Berlusconi's villas and made national headlines when she went public with her story.

Berlusconi's brother, Paolo Berlusconi, was also called as a witness on Thursday, as was Nicole Minetti, the ex-premier's former dental hygienist and an ex-Lombardy councilor.

In July, Minetti was convicted of organizing "bunga bunga" parties at Berlusconi's Arcore residence along with Emilio Fede, a well-known former anchorman with the Berlusconi-owned TG4 television station, and Lele Mora, a former talent scout.

Fede and Mora were both given seven-year prison sentences and banned for life from public office while Minetti was sentenced to five years in prison and banned from office for as many years.

The three-time premier, who is appealing a six-year conviction for paying for sex with an underage prostitute in a separate case, says he never paid anyone for sex.

The Bari case has been adjourned until April 17.

In October, Bari prosecutors dropped an investigation into Tarantini over suspicions he attempted to extort money from Berlusconi, at the time still Italy's premier, in exchange for telling prosecutors that Berlusconi had no idea the girls at parties held in his Rome residence in 2008 and 2009 were paid escorts.

Prosecutors determined a 500-million-euro payment was a gift after Berlusconi heard Tarantini was in financial trouble.