The Untouchables

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An Italian court acquitted former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of witness tampering on Wednesday, in a case related to the infamous, sexually charged “bunga bunga” parties he held at his villa near Milan while he was in office, the Associated Press reported.

The trial, which has run for six years, is the third since 2010 when Berlusconi was first charged with having paid for sex with a minor.

The earlier trials took place while Berlusconi was still prime minister, sparking concerns among security officials that he had made himself open to extortion by inviting young women to his house.

He was eventually acquitted in the prior trials also.

In the most recent trial, prosecutors accused the three-time prime minister of paying witnesses to lie in the earlier proceedings. If found guilty, Berlusconi could have faced six years in prison and had to pay $10.7 million in damages.

Twenty-eight other people, including the woman at the center of the scandal, Karima el-Mahroug, were all found not guilty. Berlusconi was accused of paying to have sex with el-Mahroug, who was 17 at the time.

Both of them have denied engaging in sex acts and el-Mahroug said that she never worked as a prostitute.

Observers said the trial is likely to be the last against the 86-year-old politician and businessman, who is currently the head of the third party in Italy’s right-wing governing coalition.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcomed Wednesday’s verdict, saying it “puts an end to a long judicial affair that had important repercussions on Italian political and institutional life.”

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