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Prosecutors send fresh evidence for Ruby case searches

Lombardy councillor at centre of scandal summoned

26 January, 16:23
Prosecutors send fresh evidence for Ruby case searches (see related story on site) (ANSA) - Rome, January 26 - Milan prosecutors sent over 300 pages of documentation to parliament Wednesday to support a request for searches in a probe into allegations Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi used an underage prostitute called Ruby.

The prosecutors also summoned for questioning Nicole Minetti, Berlusconi's former dental hygienist who is now a Lombardy regional councilor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party and is under investigation for allegedly procuring prostitutes.

Berlusconi denies paying for sex with young women including Ruby, a teenage Moroccan belly dancer whose real name is Karima El Mahroug and was 17 at the time of her alleged relations with the premier.

The material sent to parliament regards permission to search the offices of the premier's accountant, Giuseppe Spinelli. ''Today at 13.33 the House Speaker received further documentation from the Milan Prosecutors' Office in addition to the material sent on January 14 in relation to a request for permission to carry out domicile searches regarding the Right Honourable Berlusconi,'' read a statement.

The statement was initially thought to concern a request to search Berlusconi's home, but judicial sources subsequently clarified that this was not the case. ''New elements have emerged to support the hypothesis that there are papers and documents regarding the affair in Giuseppe Spinelli's offices,'' Milan Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said in a statement.

Bruti Liberati's team had already sent the House almost 500 pages of evidence when first making their request earlier this month.

The House statement added that the documents had been forwarded to Speaker Gianfranco Fini and the head of a panel of MPs tasked with handling such requests. The panel had been set to examine the request on Wednesday but this has now been postponed until Thursday.

Minetti is one of the women named in the media as possible girlfriends of Berlusconi following a recent video message in which he described the allegations as ''absurd'', in part because he is in a steady relationship.

She is also involved in separate allegations that Berlusconi abused power last year by pressuring police in Milan to release Ruby when she was taken into custody on suspicion of theft.

Berlusconi told the police Ruby was the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and sent Minetti to take the teen, who is now 18, under her wing, although she ended up leaving the station with a Brazilian prostitute.

On Tuesday Ruby said she had told Berlusconi she was Mubarak's granddaughter.

The scandal has had Italy in a state of shock and hit international headlines for almost two weeks, prompting the Catholic Church and business leaders to express concern and opposition parties to demand Berlusconi quit.

However, Berlusconi, who claims he is the victim of biased leftist prosecutors who want to oust him, said Wednesday the furore will blow over and he will stay at the helm of government.