Berlusconi Denies Paying For Sex With Teenage Dancer

(BBC)

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has denied allegations he paid to have sex with a 17-year-old nightclub dancer, Karima El Mahroug, at private parties.

He said on Italian television on Sunday he had been in a steady relationship since separating from his wife.

Prosecutors are investigating allegations of under-age prostitution and abuse of power.

Mr Berlusconi is suspected of abusing his power to have Ms El Mahroug freed from a police cell.

In a video message to supporters shown on Italian television on Sunday, he said: "It's absurd to even think that I would pay to have sex with a woman. It's something that has never happened even once in my life. I would consider it degrading.

"Since I separated - though I'd never wanted to say it to avoid exposing her to the media - I have had a stable relationship of affection with a person, who was obviously often with me at those evenings and would certainly never have allowed, at or after dinner, those absurd things some newspapers have conjured up."

Mr Berlusconi also said magistrates had acted "illegally" and "unacceptably".

Lawyers for the 74-year-old prime minister have previously dismissed the claims as "absurd and groundless", saying they had already been refuted by all witnesses and people directly involved.

Mr Berlusconi has previously admitted calling the police on Ms El Mahroug's behalf, but says he did nothing wrong and acted out of pity.

The dancer, whose stage name is Ruby, was being questioned over theft allegations when Mr Berlusconi called the police on her behalf.

The dancer, now 18 years old, told newspapers she was paid 7,000 euros (£5,900; $9,400) after she attended a party held by Mr Berlusconi last year.

She has denied having sex with him.

Paying for sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is an offence in Italy.
ITN