Berlusconi’s frank comments about enjoying women’s company would be enough to sink some politicians, but not him. Nor were accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, nor were accusations of using prostitutes.
In 2009, rumors about a relationship with a then-17-year-old woman surfaced and garnered widespread national attention. No legal charges were brought, and the furor faded.
Then, in 2010, he was put under investigation for “underage prostitution” and “abuse of power,” both for interactions with Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time. While prostitution is legal in Italy and the age for sexual consent is 14, aiding underage prostitution is a crime. Berlusconi was accused of paying the woman for sexual services before she turned 18. The trial began in 2011.
He was also accused of intervening on Ms. Mahroug’s behalf to get her out of jail after she was arrested for petty theft, allegedly calling a prosecutor to release her immediately.
Berlusconi tried to pass a law that would grant government ministers immunity from being put on trial, but it was defeated in a national referendum, allowing him to be prosecuted for the prostitution charges and a series of corruption charges, The Christian Science Monitor reported in June. As the case unfolded, his party retained the highest approval rating in the country and his personal approval declined, but still remained at 35 percent.