Berlusconi defence lawyers dismiss sex accusations
By James Mackenzie
ROME, Jan 25
Lawyers for Silvio Berlusconi have presented evidence to magistrates from dozens of witnesses denying accounts of wild sex parties at a luxurious villa belonging to the embattled Italian prime minister.
Newspapers quoted from defence documents dismissing the lurid reports which have filled the media over the past week and saying the evenings at Arcore, near Milan, were quiet and convivial gatherings.
"These were merely dinners between friends with no alcohol or sex," according to an extract from the documents quoted by the daily Corriere della Sera on Tuesday. "These evenings at Arcore were just normal ones."
It said the documents were based on statements from 30 witnesses including waiting staff, musicians and guests and would probably be filed in parliament, where prosecutors handed in a 389-page deposition last week.
Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest men, has been under growing pressure over accusations that he paid young girls for sex and that he pushed police to release one of them when she was detained for questioning over unrelated theft allegations.
His centre-right government was already in difficulty after a split in the ruling PDL party last year cost him a previously secure parliamentary majority. The latest scandal has created a media storm and drawn condemnation from both the Catholic Church and business leaders.
The 74 year-old premier has denied the accusations. He says he is the victim of a smear campaign by politically motivated leftist magistrates, and has refused to attend an appointment to answer questions.
Karima El Mahroug, the teenage nightclub dancer known as "Ruby" who is at the centre of the allegations, has denied having sex with Berlusconi. She said he had given her 7,000 euros ($9,530) to help her because she was in difficult circumstances.
Newspapers have printed pages of leaked wiretaps from the investigation, replete with references to bundles of cash, talk of sex games in nurses' outfits and conversations between young women about the presents they had received.
A varied cast of would-be starlets, weather girls and self-confessed prostitutes has been paraded across the media, some claiming to have had sex with Berlusconi and others denying that he had ever behaved improperly.
According to the evidence cited by Corriere della Sera, the entertainment at Arcore consisted largely of cinema evenings, when guests watched football matches or films like "Welcome to the South", a good-natured comedy about regional differences.
The villa also had a private discotheque but what went on there was just normal dancing rather than the lascivious "bunga bunga" striptease shows portrayed in the prosecution documents, the defence deposition said.
Nadia Macri, an escort girl who has said she had sex with Berlusconi and saw "Ruby" at the prime minister's villa, was questioned by magistrates on Monday.
Her credibility was undermined when investigators established from mobile phone records that the two were not at Arcore at the same time, the Corriere della Sera said.
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