Ruby the Heart-stealer, a key witness in the Bunga Bunga trial against Silvio Berlusconi, has surfaced in Mexico just days after disappearing on the eve of her court appearance.
Ruby's lawyer Paola Boccardi says her client, real name Karima el-Mahroug, contacted her to reveal she has been staying in the Central American country with her partner and their child since late November, and will return in January.
According to Boccardi, Ruby also said she was sorry to have missed her appearance at the Bunga Bunga trial, since she had waited two years for the chance to testify.
"I am the core of this process and i can't wait for them to call me to testify," Ruby said in October.
However when the time came earlier this week, she didn't show up, her phone was off and no one knew anything about her whereabouts.
Ruby was due to tell a Milan court about her attendance of Berlusconi's alleged sex parties when she was underage, and her unjustified absence triggered a quarrel between prosecutors and Berlusconi's lawyers.
Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini accused Berlusconi's lawyers of hijacking the trial to clear the way for the former PM's announced political comeback.
"It's just a strategy to postpone the trial to the beginning of the electoral campaign," Boccassini told the court, asking judges to instruct detectives to find Ruby.
Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, in turn said that prosecutors were trying to hasten a verdict before the election. "It is the magistrates who have started the election campaign," he told reporters outside the court.
The judge ordered police to search for el-Mahroug "throughout the national territory" and the trial was adjourned to December 17.
Judges have to decide whether to scratch her testimony, as requested by Boccassini, or wait for Ruby to come back.
Berusconi is on trial on charges of underage prostitution and exaction (bribery) charges.
Italy was to hold elections in spring but since Berlusconi pulled his support for PM Mario Monti's government, it is likely the vote will take place in February.