I haven't stamina for 33 girls, says Silvio
Silvio Berlusconi has ridi-culed claims by Italian prosecutors that he paid 33 women for sexual favours in a matter of months, saying even a man around a third of his age would lack the stamina for such a vigorous private life.
The Italian prime minister, who will stand trial on April 6 on charges of having intercourse with an under-age prostitute and abuse of office, offered an angry defence against the accusations, contained in court documents released on Tuesday.
"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 condemned investigators for citing the women in their dossier because "for the rest of their lives they will be branded: prostitute".
He claimed to have a long-standing "girlfriend" who, he said, would never have allowed him to behave in such a way. He did not name the woman.
"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 fingernails."
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.
He made the remarks to 'La Repubblica', a left-leaning newspaper that has repeatedly called for his resignation.
Prosecutors have accused the 33 women of prostituting themselves for money, jewellery and other gifts with the billionaire, who denies all the allegations.
Of the 33 women, about a dozen have not been publicly linked to Mr Berlusconi before.
They include: Ludovica Leoni (23), a showgirl and reality TV contestant; Ambra Battilana (18), who is of mixed Italian-Philippine heritage and was last year crowned Miss Piedmont; and Raffaella Fico (22), a men's magazine model and former contestant on Italy's version of 'Big Brother', who two years ago auctioned her virginity for €1m. In 2009 she was reported to be dating Cristiano Ronaldo, the footballer.
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".
Mr Berlusconi promised to turn up for every hearing in the four trials in which he is now involved. The three others involve allegations of corruption, bribery and tax fraud relating to his media empire. (©Daily Telegraph, London)