Berlusconi in court for David Mills case

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The Independent Online

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in the spotlight once again for revelations about his sex life, was in court today for the resumption of one of four trials against him.

The premier made no comment as his motorcade entered Milan's tribunal via a side entrance, though he later joked briefly with reporters inside the courtroom. "I'm fine, it's you who look bad," he quipped.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of bribing British lawyer David Mills to lie in court in the 1990s to protect his business interests.

Mr Mills was convicted in 2009 of having taken a £380,000 bribe, but the verdict was overturned when Italy's highest criminal court ruled the statute of limitations had expired.

Mr Mills was married to former Labour minister Tessa Jowell, but they have been separated since 2006.

Mr Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing and accused the Milan magistrates of launching politically motivated prosecutions against him.

In addition to the Mills case and two others involving his business interests, Mr Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old to have sex with him during the frequent dinner parties he threw for young women at his residences.

Both he and the woman deny the accusations.

Businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini is under investigation for allegedly paying the escorts, showgirls and would-be starlets to attend the parties.

Mr Tarantini insists he only paid them travel expenses to attend to try to curry favour with the premier and further his business interests. He says Mr Berlusconi never knew the women were paid.

The case, however, has further embarrassed the premier because transcripts of his telephone conversations with Tarantini have now become public, as they can once deposited in court.

Over the weekend, Italian newspapers were full of excerpts from the transcripts, prompting opposition leaders to demand an inquiry into whether government aircraft flew any escorts to the parties.

Concern was also growing over whether the billionaire media mogul premier who allegedly boasted in one intercepted chat that he "did only eight" women in one night can concentrate on rescuing Italy from its severe economic crisis.

The man tapped as Mr Berlusconi's political heir, Angelino Alfano, insisted at a rally Sunday that the premier wouldn't resign despite the scandal. Mr Berlusconi has said he will serve until legislative elections scheduled for 2013.