Profile: Karima El Mahroug

Karima El Mahroug, the young woman whom Italian prosecutors allege PM Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex Karima El Mahroug is seen here at a disco photocall in Milan in November 2010

There have been many women in Silvio Berlusconi's life - but Karima El Mahroug may turn out to be the most fateful.

The three-time Italian prime minister has been convicted of paying Ms Mahroug for sex when she was too young to be a prostitute, and of misusing his position to spring her from a police cell.

She may now be only 20, but by her own admission, Ms Mahroug - a night-club dancer who went by the stage name Ruby Rubacuori, or Ruby Heartstealer - has not been shielded from the darker sides of life.

She says that, as a child, she was a victim of rape and abuse.

She has been in and out of care since running away from home at - reports say - either 12 or 14 years old.

The transcripts of tapped telephone conversations quoted in Italian media suggest she began her acquaintance with Mr Berlusconi when she was just 16 years old.

But Ms Mahroug has sought to draw a distinction between her treatment by men in general and her treatment by Mr Berlusconi.

"It is the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear," she told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

She denies any sexual relationship with Mr Berlusconi, saying he was just a lonely man who paid to be in the company of young women.

Runaway

Karima El Mahroug reportedly arrived in Italy with her family from Morocco in 2003, settling in the eastern Sicilian coastal town of Letojanni.

Her childhood was a difficult one, she said in an interview on one of the TV channels owned by Mr Berlusconi.

Relationship with Mr Berlusconi

  • February 2010: Ms Mahroug reportedly introduced to Mr Berlusconi after one of his friends saw her in a nightclub
  • Over the following months, Ms Mahroug - then aged 17 - visited Mr Berlusconi's residence several times, when prosecutors allege he paid to have sex with her
  • May 2010: Arrested in Milan on suspicion of stealing money and jewellery - but released from jail after call from PM's office, claiming she was a relative of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mr Berlusconi denies abusing his power to secure her release
  • Prosecutors say they have transcripts for dozens of phone conversations between the pair
  • Ms Mahroug admits receiving 7,000 euros (£5,900; $9,400) from Berlusconi as a gift after they first met but denies it was payment for sex
  • Denies demanding 5m euros from Mr Berlusconi to keep quiet about their relationship
  • Said at a separate trial in May 2013 that she had lied about details of Berlusconi parties attended and payment received

"When I was nine years old, I was raped by two of my uncles - my father's brothers," she was quoted as saying.

"The only person who I dared to talk to about what happened, my mother, said, 'Keep quiet, because if your dad finds out you're not a virgin, he'll kill you,'" she said.

After she was raped, she said she invented a "parallel world" to block out the memories.

"I told my schoolmates I had a marvellous family, and I pretended I was Wonderwoman."

But at 12, her Muslim father threw a pan of boiling oil over her after she said she wanted to become a Catholic, Ms Mahroug claimed.

Other reports suggest she was known in the local town for her fiery character and for being a petty thief.

She ran away, stealing a woman's handbag, before being found by police and sent to a series of care homes.

'Buying affection'

Later, Ms Mahroug became a belly dancer but denied ever working as a prostitute. "I tried but I didn't succeed. Like my mother told me, you're born a hooker, you don't become one."

She is said to have met Mr Berlusconi after one of his friends spotted her in a nightclub - the introduction arranged by Nicole Minetti, the prime minister's former dental hygienist who is alleged to have procured women for his parties - and admits spending nights at his residence.

Start Quote

[Silvio Berlusconi] is alone and fights loneliness, a bit like I do”

End Quote Karima El Mahroug

Their relationship came to light after Ms Mahroug was arrested by Milan police on a charge of theft but was released - controversially handed over to Ms Minetti rather than put into care - after a phone call from the prime minister himself.

Mr Berlusconi told police she was a grand-daughter or niece of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and demanded her freedom to avoid a diplomatic incident. He told the court that was what he believed at the time.

Mr Berlusconi claims he gave money, gifts and help to Ms Mahroug out of pity, while she also denies any sexual aspect of their relationship.

In another interview, she said he staved off loneliness by buying affection - something she said she could relate to, as she often sent money to her estranged father.

"He is alone and fights loneliness, a bit like I do," Ms Mahroug reportedly said. "I pay to get my father's affection; he pays for young women."

Being called as a witness in at least two investigations, she has often given conflicting evidence.

She said she had invented details about erotic parties held at Mr Berlusconi's villa, and she said she had lied to investigators when she said was paid a large amount of money to attend.

Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini told a Milan court that Ms Mahroug was "part of a prostitution system set up for the personal sexual satisfaction of the defendant", that she quickly became the his "favourite" and had been paid as much as 4.5m euros (£3.8m) to keep their relationship quiet.

Ms Mahroug turned her role in the scandal to her advantage, appearing in lucrative TV interviews, adverts and by making special appearances in nightclubs around Italy.

She is now a mother and reportedly married to a nightclub manager.

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