Ruby the Heart-stealer, the nightclub dancer that then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was accused of paying for underage sex, failed to appear in court today as a defence witness during the billionaire's trial.

The attorney for Ruby, whose real name is Karima el-Mahroug, told the court in Milan that she was abroad and could not be contacted.

Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini accused Berlusconi's lawyers of trying to postpone the trial until after the upcoming Italian elections. Mr Berlusconi announced at the weekend that he was planning to run in February's expected election. The media mogul criticised the reform agenda of current PM Mario Monti, saying that it has plunged the country into its fourth recession in a decade:

"(Monti) has announced he wants to resign but after the approval of the budget law, which we have committed ourselves to vote. So I would say that there are no big changes. The election date will be moved earlier by about a month, a month and half. We have kept our commitments but unfortunately things have gone the way that everybody knows, there is not one single positive economic indicator."

Mr Monti announced at the weekend that he would be stepping down after passing Italy's 2013 budget, after Berlusconi's party withdrew parliamentary support for the man who has held the office since 16 November 2011.

Written and presented by Alfred Joyner