By James Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - The Moroccan-born nightclub dancer at the centre of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial told friends he was ready to pay millions for her silence, according to wiretaps published on Monday.
"He's crazy. He's crazy for me at the moment," Karima El Mahroug, better known by her stage name of Ruby, told a friend in a conversation recorded by investigators in October 2010 and available in audio files on the website of the daily La Repubblica newspaper.
The wiretaps contain no substantial new revelations about the lurid "bunga bunga" scandal which overshadowed Berlusconi's final months in office but reinforce allegations that he made frantic efforts to quell news about his relationship with Ruby.
The "Rubygate" affair, most spectacular of the many sexual scandals surrounding Berlusconi, is particularly dangerous for him because it centers on the allegation that he had paid El Mahroug for sex while she was still a minor - a criminal offence.
He is also accused of using his office to have her released from police custody after she was accused of theft in an unrelated case.
Both he and Mahroug deny they had sex and Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex with anybody.
In other tapes, Ruby tells friends that Berlusconi told her to "act crazy" and in one, says she and her lawyer had asked for 5 million euros to ensure her silence.
Since the opening of his trial in Milan a year ago, a number of young women have described striptease "bunga bunga" parties at Berlusconi's luxury villa outside Milan. He has long insisted they were no more than elegant, convivial dinner parties.
But speaking last week during his first appearance at the trial, Berlusconi said the young women took part in "burlesque games".
He said he made payments to help a number of young women whose reputations had been ruined by the sex scandal.
In the taped conversations published on Monday, El Mahroug and her friends appear amused at the agitation her antics were causing at the Italian prime minister's office.
"Mamma mia! What have you gone and done now?" one asks with a laugh.
"I told you I knew Silvio...What's coming out is me being Silvio's lover," Ruby is heard telling the friend, identified as Antonella.
"He called me yesterday and said I'll give you all the money you want, I'll pay you, I'll cover you in gold but the important thing is that you hide everything and don't tell anyone anything," she said.
Asked what she means by knowing Berlusconi, she replies:
"That I go to his house, that we've been friends for a year. It's just that people think the worst straight away."
"They see a beautiful girl who goes to Silvio's house, that he throws money at her - because he gave me 47,000 euros every week. They say 'Why does he do that for her? because he'd certainly have got something out of it, he'd have had sex'. It's not like that."
Asked by a friend whether she was afraid following the explosion of media interest in the story, she said: "No I'm not afraid of anything. I'll have a lot of money, I'll be famous. What should I be afraid of?"
Berlusconi, undermined by sex and corruption scandals, was forced from office last November and replaced by technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti after Italy risked being plunged into a Greek-style debt crisis. He says left-wing magistrates have waged a campaign for decades to drive him from power and subvert democracy.
(Editing by Barry Moody)