10 Political Scandals


Bunga Bunga

Just as "Watergate" will always sum up the scandals surrounding Richard Nixon, "bunga bunga" will probably be the catchword associated with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. His bunga bunga parties that took place at his mansion near Milan were replays of Roman orgies.

Berlusconi was a self-made businessman who had risen to wealth from an early gig as a cruise ship lounge singer. Using his media empire as a launching pad, he remained a power in Italian politics for 17 years, more than half that time as prime minister. Accusations of tax fraud and bribery were hurled at him early on. In addition, Berlusconi was a notorious playboy -- one theory held that he got the idea for "bunga bunga" from his friend, the now deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who allegedly hosted parties with "harems" of young women.

Berlusconi's most spectacular scandal came in 2011 when he was accused of paying for sex with an underage girl. He had befriended a teenage runaway from Morocco named Karima El Mahroug, who was also known as Ruby Heartstealer. She worked as a nightclub bellydancer and attended Berlusconi's wild parties. Although she and Berlusconi both denied a sexual relationship, Berlusconi used his influence to get her out of jail for theft in 2010, an act of chivalry that authorities saw as an abuse of power.

Before his trial on the sex offense and misuse of office began, Berlusconi had already been swept out of office. While he had been enjoying bunga bunga, the Italian economy had been going down the drain. The European debt crisis of 2011 was Berlusconi's ultimate downfall, though he was still scheduled to stand trial for sex crimes, with a possible 15-year jail term hanging over him.

Even the most pious of politicians can be immersed in scandal, as we'll see in the next section.