Silvio Berlusconi's defence: I'm far too old for 33 women in two months

Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with teen belly dancer Karima "Ruby" El Mahroug on 13 occasions last year, prosecutors will tell next month's trial when the Italian premier will stand accused of paying for sex with a minor and abuse of office.

As the probe into the "Rubygate" affair ended on Tuesday, investigating magistrates produced an eight-page report stating that Mr Berlusconi's illegal encounters with the young Moroccan occurred between 14 February and 2 May last year, while she was still 17.

It adds that his associates may have been grooming her for prostitution the previous year. It was at this time that the TV newsreader Emilio Fede, a close friend of the Premier, first met Ruby at a beauty contest at Taormina, Sicily.

The prosecutors recommend that three other associates of Mr Berlusconi, also investigated as part of the Rubygate affair – the impresario Lele Mora, Mr Fede and Mr Berlusconi's former dental hygienist Nicole Minetti – stand trial for procuring prostitutes. If the judge issues indictments, these will result in a separate trial from Mr Berlusconi's fast-track hearing, due to begin in Milan on 6 April. The Premier is also accused of abuse of office, after allegedly lying to police in order to secure Ms El Mahroug's release after she was held by police in May last year.

Paying minors for sex carries a jail term of up to three years. Abuse of office can carry a 12-year sentence. Mr Berlusconi and his associates deny all charges. Ms El Mahroug also denies having sex with the Prime Minister. Investigators said yesterday that a total of 32 other young women prostituted themselves regularly at Mr Berlusconi's Arcore mansion near Milan.

In their latest report prosecutors also appear to have solved the "bunga-bunga" mystery. The words describe the three-phase sequence of Berlusconi's adult parties.

"The first phase consisted of a dinner; the second was the 'bunga bunga' phase which took place in a room used as a discotheque, where the participants appeared in masks, performing striptease and erotic dances ... and being touched on their intimate parts by Mr Berlusconi," they say.

In the third phase, "one or more young women spend the night with Berlusconi for payments above those received by the other participants".

In a rare interview with the opposition La Repubblica newspaper yesterday, Mr Berlusconi ridiculed the charges. "I'm 75 years old and although I'm naughty, 33 girls in two months seems a bit much even for a 30-year-old," he said. He added that he wanted to "publicly defend" the young women who "risk spending the rest of their lives with an indelible stain" on their characters. "And yet their only fault was to take part in dinners with the Premier at which there were three musicians and six waiters."

He repeated his claim that he has had a steady girlfriend for over a year, who "would have clawed my eyes out" had he been involved in the sleazy events described by prosecutors.

Mr Berlusconi also faces the resumption of three other trials for tax and corruption offences.

The charges

* Berlusconi faces trial on April 6 in Milan charged with paying for sex with an underage prostitute.

* He is also accused of attempting to cover up the alleged crime by abusing his position, for which he could face a 12 year prison sentence.

* Three of his associates could also be indicted for procuring prostitutes for the Italian Premier meaning Berlusconi could be drawn into a separate trial.

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