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Berlusconi accused over sexual relations

February 17, 2011

By Guy Dinmore in Rome, Published: January 17 2011

Prosecutors have accused Italy’s 74-year-old prime minister of relations with a “significant number of young women” procured by aides, and requested that Italy’s parliament co-operate in investigating him on suspicion of abuse of office and sex with an underage prostitute.

The Milan prosecutors’ allegations against Silvio Berlusconi and three close associates were set out in a five-page document sent to the lower house of parliament last Friday and posted on its website on Monday.

Responding to a frenzy in Italian newspapers portraying the billionaire media mogul as a sex-crazed geriatric, Mr Berlusconi issued a video statement on Sunday, forcefully attacking what he denounced as a politicised judiciary that had to be reformed.

Slamming the Milan magistrates for tapping the phones of his private guests, Mr Berlusconi said he had never paid for sex in his life. He also revealed that he was in a steady relationship with a woman whom he did not name, leading to feverish speculation in the media over her possible identity.

Without actually naming Karima El-Mahroug, a Moroccan nightclub dancer who was 17 when she frequented parties at his villas last year, Mr Berlusconi noted that the woman in question had publically denied they had sex, and that she had admitted presenting herself as a 24-year-old. He did not specifically deny having sex with her, although his lawyers have previously denied a sexual relationship.

Senior diplomats in Rome trying to fathom the broader ramifications of Mr Berlusconi’s latest scandal drew comparisons with Bill Clinton’s drawn-out political agony prompted by his lies over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern.

Diplomats and commentators say Italy can ill afford a prolonged period of political paralysis dominated by a war between the executive and judiciary with the economy in a precarious state and Mr Berlusconi unable to command an absolute majority in parliament.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior official in the ruling People of Liberty party, said there was at present no question of early elections over the affair.

The prosecutors’ request to parliament to be able to search one of Mr Berlusconi’s offices near Milan suspected of handling payments to prostitutes was accompanied by more than 300 pages of confidential documents to be seen by a select number of parliamentarians, but which quickly began to leak to the media on Monday.

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