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SATURDAY, 19 APR 2014
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Berlusconi denies 'Bunga Bunga' sex parties at Milan trial
Agence France Presse
In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo Silvio Berlusconi attends the presentation of a book in Rome. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
In this Sept. 27, 2012 file photo Silvio Berlusconi attends the presentation of a book in Rome. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
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MILAN, Italy: Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi denied at his trial Friday hosting raunchy parties, having sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his powers by pressuring police.

Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heart Stealer", when she was 17.

He is also charged with abusing his position as prime minister by telling police to release her when she was arrested for petty theft in May 2010.

"I never had an intimate relationship of any kind with her," the 76-year-old told the court, adding: "I was sure she was 24, as she herself said."

"I can exclude with absolute certainty that there were ever scenes of a sexual nature," he said, referring to parties at his villa near Milan.

The "Bunga Bunga" -- described by many of his female guests as a type of lap dance that Berlusconi enjoyed -- was "only a joke I used to tell which then got picked up by the press," he told the court's three female judges.

"There has been a lot of fantasizing about the parties I held in my private residence with clear defamatory intent and intrusion into my private life."

"They were just dinners in which I monopolised the attention, singing, talking about sport, politics and gossiping," he said.

Referring to his phone call to a Milan police station when El-Mahroug was arrested, Berlusconi said he "never put pressure on Milan police".

He said he had wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident because he thought she was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The charge of exploiting an underage prostitute in Italy carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and abuse of power up to 12 years.

The trial began in April 2011 and was one of the last in a series of scandals that helped precipitate Berlusconi's downfall in November last year.

 
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