Ruby, key witness in Berlusconi trial, in Mexico
ROME (AP) — The Moroccan woman at the center of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi's pay-for-sex trial has turned up in Mexico after missing a court date and becoming entangled in Italy's latest political drama.
News agency ANSA reported Tuesday that Karima el-Mahroug, known as Ruby, notified her attorney of her whereabouts after reading that her absence Monday had sparked a minor uproar in court. Attorney Paola Boccardi informed the court Tuesday that Ruby wasn't expected back until next month, ANSA said.
Berlusconi is accused of paying Ruby, then 17, for sex during his notorious "bunga bunga" parties, and using his office to cover it up. Both deny the accusations.
Milan Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini accused Berlusconi's defense of keeping Ruby away to delay a verdict until after February elections, in which Berlusconi is running for premier for a fourth time. Berlusconi's attorney angrily denied the accusation as defamatory.
A verdict in the case had been expected as early as January. A conviction right before the election would be a major blow to Berlusconi, who in October was convicted of tax fraud in a separate case involving his media holdings. He denied the charges and is appealing the sentence, which isn't considered definitive until all three levels of appeal are exhausted.
The courtroom turmoil played out as Italy's political and financial foundations were rocked by fallout from Berlusconi's decision last week to yank his party's support for Premier Mario Monti's government, accusing Monti's austerity measures of making Italy worse off than a year ago when he was last in power.
Monti announced over the weekend that he would resign after Parliament passes the 2013 budget, forcing elections to be moved up several weeks to February.
Monti was tapped last year to replace Berlusconi, who was forced to resign after international markets lost faith in his ability to save Italy from a Greek-style debt crisis. Monti, a respected economist, has won back a measure of international credibility for Italy and lowered its borrowing rates by pushing through a series of tax increases and structural reforms that have been deeply unpopular here.