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Holy Ravioli, Batman! The creepy and corrupt billionaire, right-authoritarian PM of Italy partied with two underage girls in his villa?

Silvio Berlusconi, the second-richest man in Italy and one of approximately 1000 billionaires worldwide, is something of a playboy. He's been hosting erotic parties at Berlusconi villas, where it seems at least two underage girls showed up, and beyond that, he invited them to participate in the festivities.

First sexual allegations emerged over an underage Moroccan belly dancer, and now similar documents involve a 17-year old Brazilian prostitute.

In the latest twist of his scandal, new documents submitted to a parliamentary committee late Wednesday show a Brazilian prostitute and showgirl, Iris Berardi, had attended sex parties hosted by the 74-year old before her 18th birthday.

Seventy-four year old, corrupt businessman-president partying with underage sex workers and dancers. Got it. Women at the party were paid with money and gifts. Al Jazeera has more:

Berlusconi denies wrongdoing and says he never paid for sex.

When police searched the apartment of one of the women they investigated, they found money and jewellery, which she told the magistrates were gifts from Berlusconi, according to the leaks.

Yes, I know we're not usually the crowd for sex scandals, but the continued economic collapse of the Eurozone and Berlusconi's long, rightward tide over Italy makes this story very relevant.

Italy's in sort of a perfect storm, as one of the volatile PIIGS economies and Europe's largest debtor. And Berlusconi was right in the middle of that trajectory, says Tito Boeri:

MILAN ― Silvio Berlusconi has survived a confidence vote, but his government is virtually dead. One cannot rule a country with so scant a majority. Not for long.

...Two years ago, when financial crisis shook the world, Berlusconi’s choice was to avoid any policy intervention to counteract the Great Recession. This contributed to the deepest fall in output in Italy’s postwar history, with a cumulative 6.5% decline in GDP. Within the G-20, only Japan did worse.

According to Toeti, Berlusconi compounded the sharp recession (6.5% is very steep) by

  1. cutting taxes on overtime workers--in Europe hours are reduced instead to preserve jobs
  1. a tax on oil positioned right as oil prices depressed from the shock
  1. dismantling real estate taxes.

Italy may not seem on its knees, but that's only because Iceland, Greece, Ireland and Spain are first on the hit-list.

For the last ten years, Berlusconi was a busy boy. Except for 2 years of his old, center-left nemesis Romano Prodi, Berlusconi has been Prime Minister. But Berlusconi's most pervasive influence is perhaps accounted for the fact that his media empire, Mediaset, controls over half of Italian network TV--and FOX News billionaire Rupert Murdoch is his principal competitor. Thankfully, cracks in his media monopoly are starting to appear. It doesn't hurt that Berlusconi founded Mediolanum Group, a Milan-based banking and financial services firm, either.

Starting to get creepy enough? According to the New York Review of Books, for 16 years, Berlusconi has been involved in corruption and bribery scandals that led to Silvio trying to enact a law preventing any future prosecution of himself. The law did not withstand legal challenge. Then there's this gem, from Jonathan Chait of The New Republic:

At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked Putin about his apparent marital trouble and rumored romance with the young and indecently plastic gymnast-cum-parliamentarian Alina Kabaeva. When asked about the liaison, Putin’s face hardened. "There is not a word of truth in this story," he said. Berlusconi, giggling, regarded the exchange. When Putin had finished answering, Berlusconi cocked his hands, and, imitating a gun, fired with a silent "Pow! Pow!" at Melikova. It had only been a year and a half since Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist, had been shot in her Moscow elevator, and Melikova was reduced to tears. On the dais, Berlusconi laughed, and Putin nodded.

From Daily Kos writer Anak, Dec 10th: Berlusconi called off the investigation into the death of Italian soldier Nicholas Calipari by a US guardsman in Iraq. Calipari was killed while rescuing the kidnapped communist journalist Giuliana Sgrena. Sgrena is now trying to reopen the investigation.

Forbes ranked Berlusconi 70th richest human in 2009 during a messy divorce which halved his $6.5 billion fortune (it totaled over $9 bn in 2008).

Insulated by insane wealth, when the mighty fall to ruin it's often under their own gigantic egos. At the moment, the odds for a PM resignation climb a bit.

Originally posted to Nulwee on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 08:49 PM PST.



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