Italian PM says he had ‘elegant’ dinners with lady friends

ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has rejected “shocking accusations” from an inquiry linking him to an alleged prostitution ring, saying women only came to dine and dance at his house.

“I can’t believe that the justice system is being used in such a barbaric way and so far from reality,” Berlusconi said in an interview with La Repubblica issued on Wednesday, a day after details of the inquiry were leaked.

“They were cheerful, elegant dinners. The women went for a little dance in the disco. On their own because I’ve never liked dancing,” Berlusconi said.

“I will go on television to explain everything – to defend myself and defend these women. And I will take part in all my trial hearings,” he said.

Prosecutors investigating three Berlusconi associates for allegedly hiring prostitutes for the prime minister found the Italian leader allegedly had sex 13 times with a then 17-year-old starlet known as Ruby the Heart Stealer.

The inquiry documents, which were published by Italian media, also said 33 women, including Ruby, were involved and it detailed orgies at his home near Milan in which women “touched or were touched intimately by Silvio Berlusconi”.

Berlusconi’s popularity has been hit by rumours of orgies as well as a slew of corruption and fraud trials, and his ratings have dropped to a new record low of 33 per cent, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

The same poll by Italy’s IPR Marketing institute, which was carried out for centre-left daily La Repubblica, gave Berlusconi 40 per cent in January, down from 60 per cent at his re-election in  2008.

The billionaire tycoon, who has survived a long list of fraud trials ever since entering politics in the early 1990s, is set to appear in court on Monday to defend himself for alleged bribery of a witness.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi faces a separate trial starting on April 6 on charges of paying for sex with underage Ruby – real name Karima El Mahroug – and then using the power of his office to try and cover up the alleged crime.

Berlusconi and El Mahroug deny having sex and he has denied all charges.

The results of the inquiry revealed on Tuesday said the parties held at Berlusconi’s villa involved “masks, stripteases and erotic dances” and the prime minister chose “one or more women for the night for intimate relations”.

The Berlusconi associates under investigation are celebrity agent Lele Mora, television anchor Emilio Fede and Nicole Minetti, a former showgirl who is now a local politician for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party in Milan.

Fede first spotted El Mahroug at a beauty contest in Sicily in  2009 when she was just 16, the inquiry documents were quoted as saying.

Fede and Mora “selected… young women who were open to prostituting themselves”, while Minetti arranged transport and payments, it said.

Prosecutors have made a formal request that the three be put on trial.

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