Silvio Berlusconi has been Italy’s prime minister three times, making him the country’s longest-serving post-war premier. His leadership was undermined by sex scandals, and by the growing Euro zone sovereign debt crisis, and Berlusconi resigned as prime minister in November 2011, but mounted a comeback in late 2012.
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi denies 'Bunga Bunga' sex parties
Former Italian premier rejects claims he hosted sex parties and romped with prostitute aged 17
Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi denied at his trial yesterday that he hosted kinky parties, had sex with a 17-year-old prostitute or abused his powers by pressuring police officers.
Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with Moroccan exotic dancer Karima El-Mahroug, better known by her stage name as "Ruby the Heart Stealer".
He is also charged with abusing his position as prime minister by telling police to release her when she was arrested for petty theft in May 2010.
"I never had an intimate relationship of any kind with her," the 76-year-old told the court in his second appearance at the trial in Milan which began last year.
"I was sure she was 24, as she herself said," said Berlusconi.
"I can exclude with absolute certainty that there were ever scenes of a sexual nature," he said, referring to parties held at his villa near Milan.
"Everything happened in front of the staff and at times my children too came in to say hello," said the billionaire, who has five children from two marriages, both of which ended in divorce.
Berlusconi's future is still a matter of heated political debate in Italy, with many supporters in the People of Freedom party that he founded calling for him to return to lead the party in a general election next year.
The "Bunga Bunga" - described by many of his female guests as a type of lap dance that Berlusconi enjoyed - was "only a joke I used to tell which then got picked up by the press," he told the court's three female judges.
One witness earlier in the trial said she saw girls in nuns' costumes stripping for Berlusconi.
Another testified that she dressed up as the late US singer Whitney Houston and President Barack Obama before stripping.
Several witnesses called by the prosecution said women were paid to attend the parties and were given a bonus for having sex with Berlusconi.
But the former premier said these descriptions constituted "a monstrous operation of defamation" and an intrusion into his private life. "They were just dinners in which I monopolised the attention, singing, talking about sport and politics and gossiping," he said.
"I never paid money to have intimate relationships with my female guests and my female guests could not be considered escorts," he said.
He did however add that his accountant had given Mahroug "several thousand euros after Ruby's constant requests".
Referring to his phone call to a Milan police station when El-Mahroug was arrested, Berlusconi said he "never put pressure on Milan police".
He said he had wanted to avoid a diplomatic incident because he thought she was the niece of then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.