Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Berlusconi: 'I'll cover you in gold,' just stay quiet

Karima El Mahroug of Morocco (left), also known as "Ruby the Heart-Stealer," poses for photographers in a hotel in the western Austrian ski resort of Ischgl in April, 2011. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends a soccer game between Parma and AC Milan in Parma in March of this year.


By Claudio Lavanga, NBC News Producer

ROME ? All we knew of Ruby was that she stole Silvio Berlusconi?s heart. But according to leaked telephone conversations published on Monday, she also took quite a lot of money from him to lie about their relationship.

Karima El-Marough, better known as ?Ruby the Heart-Stealer,? is a Moroccan-born dancer who, according to prosecutors in Milan, had sex with the former Italian prime minister for money when she was still a minor. It?s a crime which could land?Berlusconi in prison for up to three years.?

So far El-Marough has denied having had sex with Berlusconi, although she did admit to having received?thousands of euros from him. Berlusconi has claimed to have given money to her and other women as gifts to ?help out,? but according to leaked telephone conversations between and her friends, that money was meant to buy her silence.?

In the wiretapped telephone conversations dating back to October 2010, when the scandal broke, El-Marough told a number of friends that Berlusconi asked her to act "crazy" and lie. In exchange, he would give her whatever she wanted.

According to the wire-tapped calls on Oct. 28, 2010, she told a friends: ?Silvio called me to tell me he?ll give me as much money as I want, as long as I act like I am mentally unstable and a liar? as long as I don?t tell the truth. He told me ?I?ll give you all the money you want?I?ll cover you in gold?just don?t say anything.???

'Burlesconi' sex scandal comes full circle

On the same day, El-Marough told a friend named Sergio that she had even set a specific price for her silence on the relationship with Berlusconi.?

?Through my lawyer I asked him for five million euro ($6.5 million) in exchange for me acting like I am crazy? a liar? He accepted,? she said, according to the transcripts.

When another friend asked her if she was afraid of being involved in such a high-profile scandal, Ruby seemed to?acknowledge?that she had actually hit the jackpot.

?No, I am not afraid. I will get a lot of money?fame?why should I be afraid?? she is heard saying on the phone.

What is certain is that she did gain fame. Since the scandal broke out, she has become a household name, even though she is better known as ?Ruby the Heart-Stealer? than Karima El-Marough. She has since had a baby and appeared in a couple of small commercials.

Whether she was effectively paid to lie in order to protect Berlusconi is up to the?prosecutors?to prove. But the leaked phone conversations are so far the most damaging piece of evidence against the former Italian prime minister in a trial that has that could not only end his political career, but his life as a free man.

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