Silvio Berlusconi's 28-year-old fiancee has demanded €10m in legal damages after a Bulgarian actress claimed she was a lesbian and that her relationship with the ex-prime minister was a sham.
Francesca Pascale was outraged after Michelle Bonev, a glamorous actress-turned-film producer, claimed she was a lesbian and the pair had had a relationship.
Ms Bonev first made the claims a week ago on her blog, saying that she was "much more than a friend" to Ms Pascale, but repeated them in full on Italian television late on Thursday night.
"Francesca had never been with a man, because she likes women," Ms Bonev told the programme, 'Servizio Pubblico', claiming that she had a lesbian relationship with Ms Pascale even as the former shop assistant from Naples avidly pursued 77-year-old Mr Berlusconi.
She claimed that Ms Pascale was highly ambitious and jealous of the other women in the ex-prime minister's inner circle, whom she regarded as "tarts and sluts." "She's a woman without scruples, she does everything out of ambition, to gain power," said the Bulgarian actress.
She claimed that Mr Berlusconi had told her that he did not love Ms Pascale – despite the fact that the two are now engaged and living together in his palazzo in Rome.
Ms Bonev explained how young women who went to Mr Berlusconi's parties would ask him for favours at the end of the evening.
"It worked like this – at the end of every party each girl had a request to make – a role in a film, a bag made out of snake skin, money to pay for rent, electricity, gas. They would speak to him one by one, and he would sit there listening, like a godfather."
As well as suing Ms Bonev, Ms Pascale is demanding damages from Michele Santoro, the host of the television talk show and a long-time critic of the scandal-ridden former premier, and Urbano Cairo, the director of La7, the channel on which it is broadcast.
The claims were "highly defamatory", said her lawyer, Paola Rubini.
Ms Bonev said she had received no legal threats. "However, I'm ready to repeat everything in front of a court," she wrote on her Twitter account.
Mr Berlusconi faces fresh embarrassment, meanwhile, after it emerged that prosecutors in Milan are investigating two of his lawyers, members of his party and about 20 starlets for allegedly lying in court about his "bunga bunga" parties and his relationship with a teenage erotic dancer.
The prosecutors are preparing to open an investigation into suspicions that the models and actresses were coached and even paid to give favourable testimony in Mr Berlusconi's trial.
The investigations are likely to start next month and could lead to a new trial, prolonging Mr Berlusconi's legal woes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)