For a man who likes to say he loves women, Silvio Berlusconi may make an exception for Ilda Boccassini.
Known as Ilda La Rossa (Ilda the Red), thanks to her flame-coloured hair and progressive sympathies, is one of a trio of Milan magistrates now investigating the Italian PM on suspicion that he paid to have sex with an underage prostitute. Berlusconi is also accused of abusing his position to pressure police.
La Rossa’s determination to pursue the case has led her to request that, if the case comes to court, pre-trial hearings which slow Italian prosecutions to a crawl will be skipped.
The development is a serious blow to Berlusconi, who had appeared relatively unscathed after allegations in 2009 of sleeping with another prostitute. But his government hangs by a thread.
The investigation will examine allegations that Berlusconi paid to sleep with nightclub dancer, Karima El Mahroug, known as Ruby the Heartstealer, when she was 17, and subsequently had her freed from a Milan police station by fooling officers into thinking she was the granddaughter of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. If found guilty, the 74-year-old PM faces up to 15 years in jail.