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Former Italy premier Berlusconi acquitted in Bunga Bunga bribery trial

Berlusconi had been accused of bribing witnesses in Bunga Bunga case.

A court in Milan on Wednesday acquitted former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in a high-profile case in which he was accused of bribing witnesses to lie about his infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties.

Prosecutors had accused Berlusconi of paying 24 people, mostly young showgirls and models, to stay silent or lie about the nature of the parties, which he hosted while serving as prime minister of Italy.

Berlusconi, 86, has always denied the allegations and described the parties at his Arcore estate near Milan and in Sardinia as "elegant dinners".

In 2013 the former premier and billionaire media mogul was convicted of paying for sex with then 17-year-old Moroccan dancer Karima El Mahroug, known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", in 2010.

After appealing the verdict Berlusconi was cleared in 2015 over lack of proof that he knew she was a minor. However prosecutors claimed that witnesses were bought off, and sought a jail term of six years.

Berlusconi was also acquitted in two other cases of alleged bribery relating to the so-called Bunga Bunga case, in Rome in 2022 and in Siena in 2021.

He has previously acknowledged giving money and gifts to his guests but claimed it was as compensation for "reputational damage" that they suffered.

The Bunga Bunga case was among several scandals that led to Berlusconi's resignation as prime minister in 2011.

However he made a remarkable political comeback last year and his centre-right Forza Italia party is today part of the governing right-wing coalition led by premier Giorgia Meloni.

Last October he returned to the senate nine years after being expelled from elected office following a tax fraud conviction.

Meloni on Wednesday welcomed Berlusconi's acquittal as "excellent news that puts an end to a long judicial affair that also had important repercussions on Italian political and institutional life".

Antonio Tajani, Italy's deputy premier and the national co-ordinator of Forza Italia, also hailed the "wonderful news" of his party leader's acquittal, adding: "I had no doubts about his innocence".

Photo credit: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock.com

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