Actress praised for refusing to have sex with Berlusconi
An actress who refused an alleged invitation to sleep with Silvio Berlusconi in exchange for hosting the country's most prestigious music festival was hailed as a heroine by Italians yesterday.
Manuela Arcuri (34) was praised for standing up to the alleged offer, with tongue-in-cheek demands for her to be declared a saint or to replace Mr Berlusconi as Italian prime minister.
Her repeated refusals of the proposal emerged from telephone conversations recorded as part of an investigation into allegations that more than 30 young women were recruited to attend Mr Berlusconi's private parties.
Many allegedly had sexual intercourse with him for money and other favours, and prosecutors have called for eight people to be put on trial for aiding and abetting prostitution.
The women's apparent willingness to go to bed with Mr Berlusconi (74) was contrasted by bloggers and on social networking sites with Ms Arcuri's dogged refusal to entertain the offer.
"To know that she didn't give herself to that dwarf is priceless," one Italian wrote, while others called for her to be made the presenter of the Sanremo music festival for life.
The actress was compared with Rosy Bindi, a left-wing MP who, after being insulted by Mr Berlusconi two years ago, told him: "I'm not a woman at your disposal."
"It's proof that in Italy there are still women with a sense of decency," one blogger wrote.
The allegation that dozens of escorts and showgirls were recruited by a businessman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, is the latest scandal to hit the prime minister, who is on trial for allegedly paying for intercourse with an underage prostitute.
Mr Tarantini, a convicted drug dealer, allegedly supplied the women to 25 parties in Milan, Rome and Sardinia in 2008 and 2009 in the hope of winning favour with Mr Berlusconi.
Mr Tarantini (36) held out hopes of being appointed an MEP, it emerged from the conversations.
Mr Berlusconi's involvement is yet another embarrassment at a time when Italy is trying to tackle its public debt.
His lawyers said yesterday that he would refuse to be questioned by prosecutors in Naples, who are investigating Mr Tarantini, his wife and a journalist-turned-businessman on suspicion of blackmailing about €850,000 from Mr Berlusconi in return for covering up his alleged use of call girls.
Mr Berlusconi will also not attend court in Milan on Monday, when a trial resumes into his alleged bribing of David Mills, his British former tax adviser, to give false testimony about his business dealings. (© Daily Telegraph, London)