Berlusconi laughs off sex accusations

Silvio Berlusconi has ridiculed
claims by Italian prosecutors that he paid 33 women for sex in a matter of
months, saying he would need the stamina of a man one third his age to maintain
such a private life.

The Italianprime minister, who will
stand trial on 6 April on charges of having sex with an underage prostitute and
abuse of office, launched an angry defence against the accusations, contained
in court documents.

“I’m 74 years old and even
though I may be a bit of a rascal … 33 girls in two months seems to me too
much even for a 30 year old.”

He claimed to have a long-standing
“girlfriend”, whom he did not identify, who he said would never have
allowed him to behave in such a way.

“If I’d done everything they
say I’ve done, she’d have gouged my eyes out.

And I can tell you, she has very
long finger nails.”

He said he had paid for dentistry
bills, university tuition fees and medical treatment on behalf of his female
friends, but that he did so out of personal generosity, seeking nothing in
return. “I’m a walking charity,” he said. “I’m happy to be able
to do it.”

He made the remarks to La
Repubblica, a Left-leaning national newspaper that has repeatedly called for
his resignation over the prostitution scandal.

Prosecutors have accused the 33
women of prostituting themselves for money, jewellery and other gifts with the
billionaire tycoon, who denies all the allegations.

They include the Moroccan-born
teenage erotic dancer at the heart of the scandal, Karima El Mahroug, now 18,
better known by her stage name as Ruby the Heart Stealer.

Prosecutors say the women took part
in “bunga bunga” orgies at Mr Berlusconi’s imposing residence at
Arcore, near Milan, involving “masks, stripteases and erotic dances”
in which they “touched each other mutually or were touched in their
intimate areas by Silvio Berlusconi.”

The prime minister denied paying
the women for sex, saying they simply attended private dinners held at his