SILVIO BERLUSCONI claimed he has nothing to be ashamed of in his private life, as he prepares to give evidence in his "bunga-bunga" trial in which he is accused of paying for sexual intercourse with a teenage nightclub dancer.
Ten months after he had to resign amid sex scandals and the eurozone crisis, the billionaire businessman insisted he had never broken the law and that he continues to be the victim of a witch hunt by politically motivated judges.
"I have always behaved correctly, both in private and public. I have never done anything against the law, nor against morality. All the rest is disinformation and defamation," Mr Berlusconi said. "The use of the justice system to eliminate political adversaries is a serious pathology in our democracy," he added.
Mr Berlusconi appears to be laying out his policies before an attempt at re-election. He and his allies have strongly hinted that he hopes to become prime minister for the fourth time at elections due to be held in the spring. He boasted of his new-found physical fitness, saying he had lost 17 pounds after a holiday in Kenya at a resort owned by Flavio Briatore, the former Formula 1 boss.
His trial, in which he is accused of abusing his office and paying for sexual intercourse with a teenage erotic dancer known as Ruby the Heart Stealer, resumes in Milan on October 5.
Mr Berlusconi's lawyers have said he will give evidence at a hearing on October 19, at which he is expected to deny paying to have sex with the dancer, a Moroccan-born immigrant whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, at one of his so-called "bunga-bunga" parties.
The media mogul also railed against German ChancellorAngela Merkel.
Mr Berlusconi said that, had he still been in office, he would not have been as "servile" to Mrs Merkel as his successor, Mario Monti.
He criticised Mr Monti for raising taxes and he promised to abolish a deeply unpopular private property tax, a pledge likely to secure him much support.
He claimed the moderate, centre-Left Democratic Party was full of "communists" whose views had changed little since the Cold War.
He also came to the defence of a senior member of his People of Freedom Party who resigned on Monday over a scandal involving the alleged embezzlement of millions of euros of taxpayers' money.
Renata Polverini, the governor of Lazio region, was brought down in part by a row over a risque toga party attended by members of her party.
"She did nothing immoral or illegitimate," said Mr Berlusconi. (© Daily Telegraph, London)