Silvio Berlusconi was convinced that Ruby the Heart Stealer, the teenage dancer whom he is accused of paying for sex, was the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak and even questioned the bemused Egyptian president about her, an Italian court was told on Friday.
Days later Mr Berlusconi realised that the teenager, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, had told him “a load of balls” and was in no way related to the Egyptian leader.
The evidence emerged at the resumption of Mr Berlusconi’s “bunga bunga” trial, in which he is accused of paying for sex with the then 17-year-old, whom prosecutors allege was an under-age prostitute. He denies the charges.
The billionaire businessman met Miss El Mahroug in early 2010 and invited her to one of his parties, which he insists were refined affairs, but which prosecutors claim involved starlets stripping, performing pole dances and simulating lesbian sex.
When Mr Berlusconi met Mr Mubarak during an official reception in Rome on May 19, 2010, he told his Egyptian counterpart that he knew one of his relatives.
But Mr Mubarak was baffled by the claim and a highly confused conversation ensued.
“During lunch, when things became more relaxed, Berlusconi told Mubarak that he had met an Egyptian girl called Ruby who he believed was related to him,” Valentino Valentini, one of Mr Berlusconi’s former aides, told the court in Milan.
“There was then a rather confused conversation,” he said, with members of the Egyptian delegation wondering whether the Italian prime minister was in fact referring to a famous Egyptian singer.
The scenario was confirmed by Giancarlo Galan, a former agriculture minister in the Berlusconi government, who also gave evidence to the hearing.
Eight days later, Miss El Mahroug was arrested in Milan on theft charges and taken to a police station.
Mr Berlusconi was informed of her arrest while travelling between Paris and Rome, allegedly by a Brazilian showgirl he knew, Michelle Conceicao.
He called the head of the police station and asked him to release the young woman on the basis that she was related to the Egyptian president.
He asked for her to be handed over to the care of Nicole Minetti, an Anglo-Italian model-turned-politician who faces charges in a related trial of procuring prostitutes for the prime minister.
A few days afterwards, Mr Berlusconi reportedly told his adviser, Mr Valentini: “You know, everything she (Ruby) told me was a load of balls.”
The ex-premier’s lawyers said they would inform the judges on Monday whether Mr Berlusconi will address the court at the next hearing in the trial, on Oct 19.
Meanwhile it was reported that he is planning to leave the People of Freedom party (PDL) that he founded in order to set up a new party, ahead of a possible bid for re-election in April, when Mario Monti steps down.
The party has been badly damaged by a corruption scandal in Lazio, the region around Rome, involving allegations of widespread embezzlement and the spending of public funds on holiday villas, cars and lavish meals of oysters and Champagne.
“Berlusconi to leave the PDL,” said a front-page headline in Il Giornale, a right-wing newspaper owned by his brother.
Il Tempo, another right-wing paper, reported on its front page that Mr Berlusconi intended to “liquidate” the party because its image had been so badly tarnished.