updated 23 Dec 2011, 03:29
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Berlusconi's 'Bunga Bunga' inspires line of accessories
by Mathieu Gorse

GRUMELLO DEL MONTE - While his fellow businessmen moan about Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's constant sex scandals and the fallout for Italy's image abroad, Carlo Pagani has decided to cash in.

Inspired by the Italian leader's "bunga bunga" parties - reportedly a form of lap dancing enjoyed by Berlusconi, Pagani's small plastics factory has come out with the "Bunga Bunga Band", a bracelet with supposedly aphrodisiac qualities.

And it won't stop there. The businessman has registered various trademarks linked to the now famous phrase and will launch a full line of accessories.

"When we saw the words 'Bunga Bunga', they sounded magical," Pagani told AFP during a visit to his Castelberg Technologies factory in Grumello del Monte, near the northern city of Bergamo.

While the bracelet was the first off production lines, the businessman is planning to expand internationally with a full "Bunga Bunga" line of items including necklaces, keyrings, perfumes, lingerie and even body oil.

"For us 'Bunga Bunga' has an extremely positive sense. It means joie de vivre!" said Pagani, whose factory also produces accessories for major brands including French cosmetics giant L'Oreal and Italian fashion house Prada.

The businessman said he wants to send one of the bracelets to Berlusconi and hoped the scandal-tainted prime minister would get the joke.

It "has no political meaning. We respect all politicians. Even Berlusconi."

Pagani's factory employs 40 people - one of the thousands of small and medium-sized companies that make up the backbone of Italy's economy and are struggling now with low growth rates and tight credit conditions.

Pagani said he has invested $349,518 in the project so far and plans to turn it into a "global brand" aimed at a young audience. He is in contact with distributors in France, Germany, Russia and Switzerland.

The bunga bunga scandal broke last year when it was revealed that Berlusconi was being investigated by prosecutors for alleged involvement in an underage prostitution ring with raunchy parties at his villa near Milan.

He is now on trial for paying for sex with then 17-year-old nightclub dancer Karima El-Mahroug - better known by her stage name as "Ruby the Heart Stealer" -- who described the parties in detail during police questioning.

"After dinner we went into a hall in the basement where the bunga bunga was held," the young woman told investigators, according to leaked transcripts.

"All the girls were naked during the bung bunga and I had the feeling that they were competing with each other to make Berlusconi notice them by performing more and more daring sexual acts," she was quoted as saying.

The phrase quickly became an Internet sensation and has already inspired the name of a new bar in Tuscany, a pizzeria in London, as well as thousands of T-shirts for tourists and a line of "Bunga Bunga dance" boxer shorts.

Berlusconi himself has joked about the scandal, asking two students at a graduation ceremony to join his bunga bunga and telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a historic painting was "The Bunga Bunga of 1811".

But the media tycoon's television channels are clearly less amused.

Franco Donato, who is in charge of promotion for Pagani's accessories, said Berlusconi's Mediaset company has refused to place ads for the "Bunga Bunga band".

The company has been advertising itself through nightclubs and with a music video called "Bunga Bunga Tribe" featuring gyrating female dancers.

"In Italy, talking about the pope or Berlusconi is difficult," Donato said.

The disgruntled marketing man added: "At least Berlusconi has done some good. He allowed us to make this bracelet."


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