Silvio claims to have spent over €310m on legal cases
ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that he's "the biggest legal defendant in the history of the universe", yesterday.
"My agenda is quite full at the moment as I have to attend five judicial hearings in the next 11 days," he said at a conference in Milan.
He has already spent "more than 600bn Italian lira," or €310m, in defending himself and his companies against legal action since entering politics in 1994, he said.
He is currently facing four trials this year including for alleged corruption and underage prostitution.
Mr Berlusconi failed to respond to a subpoena to appear yesterday at the resumption of a trial for tax fraud involving his Mediaset Spa television company.
His lawyers also failed to present the court with a reason for his absence, which according to Italian law may be excused if judges decide that the premier's official duties conflict with the hearing.
His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said that his client faces an "unprecedented" number of trials for a prime minister. The premier denies any wrongdoing in all the cases.
Meanwhile in a separate development yesterday it emerged that Italian prosecutors are investigating whether Mr Berlusconi paid for young women in his inner circle to have cosmetic surgery to their breasts, bottoms and lips.
Investigators believe the operations were carried out by Giacomo Urtis, a cosmetic surgeon based in Sardinia.
Venezuelan born Dr Urtis, (34), has been questioned by Ilda Boccassini, one of the magistrates pursuing the case, but is not accused of any wrongdoing. The surgeon insisted that he had never met Karima El Mahroug, the teenage belly dancer who the prime minister is accused of paying for sex when she was 17.
Prosecutors believe at least seven women in Mr Berlusconi's inner circle were given money for operations to enlarge their breasts, shape their buttocks and plump up their lips with collagen implants.
Investigators have already amassed evidence suggesting that Mr Berlusconi gave jewellery, cars, and bundles of cash which amounted to hundreds of thousands of euro to showgirls and aspiring actresses who "prostituted themselves" at so-called "bunga bunga" parties at his mansion near Milan.
In the course of their investigation prosecutors recorded hundreds of telephone conversations, in which some of the women caught up in the scandal discussed having work done.
Mr Berlusconi said he was not worried about the prostitution trial, due to start on April 6, claiming he had been unfairly persecuted for years by the Italian judiciary and quoting Jesus Christ.
"I'm the person who's been subjected to the most trials in Italy, I've had to face 2,952 hearings," he said.
"When people say that I should let myself be put on trial, I think 'forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"