Bunga bunga legal charges may call time on Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and his media empire

Some more details have emerged about Italian media magnate and prime minister (mustn’t forget that) Silvio Berlusconi and his antics in the so-called bunga bunga scandal.

Milan prosecutors want to charge him with paying for sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug (she’s had a few names this girl), also known as Ruby Rubacuori, which roughly translates as ‘rubies are good for you.’

Apparently the age of consent in Italy is 14 but you can’t pay for somebody for it until they’re 18 and Karima alias Ruby was 17 the first time she joined the bunga bunga club.

The Sunday Times reported today that Silvio’s bunga bunga parties involved 20 or so gals entering a striptease contest, at which they were ‘bare breasted’ (no surprise there then) with the lucky winner invited to spend the rest of the evening with 74-year old Berlusconi. Some of the participants are said to be leading female politicians, many of whom began their rise to fame appearing on his TV shows.

At one of these Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin was reported as being present, doubtless trying to tie up a trade deal before Silvio got too distracted.

Karima says she was there but didn’t, a fine distinction, at least in the eyes of the Milan prosecutors.

Berlusconi has always wriggled off the hook before in such scandals but then he had a working majority in the Italian Parliament which he hardly enjoys now as it’s been reduced to single figures. Like a good media tycoon he’s thinking of relaunching his own party as ‘Italia’, presumably on the very good grounds that Italians might find it difficult not to vote for their own country.

But what’s this got to do with media and marketing?

Well Berlusconi controls most of the Italian media either through his private interests Mediaset (his own TV properties), Publitalia (a massive old-style publicity agency if not quite an ad agency) and Mondadori (magazines).

As prime minister he also controls the state-run TV channels.

Any diminution in his political power, let alone finding himself in an Italian nick, would mean that huge chunks of Italian media would suddenly come into play.

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia is already a big player in Italy although thwarted hitherto by Berlusconi’s control of the pitch, the rulebook and the ball.

Private equity companies would queue up to buy chunks of the Berlusconi empire if Silvio found himself suddenly indisposed.

Well we’ll see. But it does look like the old rascal is running out of friends and, therefore, time.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.