Berlusconi's homes may be searched


Italian prosecutors hope to search properties belonging to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (AP)

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi had sex with several prostitutes, according to prosecutors trying to get permission to search some of his homes.

They are leading a probe aimed at determining if the 74-year-old media mogul paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl who attended parties at one of his villas last year. Prostitution is not a crime in Italy, but exploiting or aiding prostitution with minors is.

The prosecutors allege that Mr Berlusconi had sex with a “significant” number of young female prostitutes and used apartments to compensate the women, along with cash payments. He has denied doing anything wrong.

The prosecutors asked the Chamber of Deputies to authorise a search of offices in a residential complex near Milan that belong to Mr Berlusconi, who is both a member of the chamber and premier.

Members of the chamber enjoy parliamentary immunity including from arrest or searches in criminal probes, unless a chamber committee decides otherwise on a case-by-case basis.

The girl, now 18, has said she was among a series of young women invited to parties at Mr Berlusconi’s Arcore villa near Milan. She has said in a TV interview that the premier last year gave her 7,000 euros to help her financially. She has said they did not have sex.

Prosecutors want police to search an apartment complex in Segrate, near Milan, which includes the offices they alleged could contain documentation that young women were given money and rent-free apartments – in another residential complex – by Mr Berlusconi in compensation for prostitution.

In the request, Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati wrote that one of the premier’s lawyers said the offices are part of Mr Berlusconi’s property and thus enjoy parliamentary immunity from searches. Prosecutors said in their request that these parties were allegedly a cover for prostitution, and that besides the rent-free arrangement, cash payments doled out by a go-between compensated the prostitutes.

Mr Liberati said that three close associates of the premier “continuously carried out an activity of inducing and abetting prostitution,” by selecting and accompanying to Mr Berlusconi’s various residences, a “significant number of young women, who prostituted themselves with Silvio Berlusconi, receiving payment of money” from him.

Among the prostitutes was said to be the 17-year-old. Mr Liberati in his request to parliament said investigators’ analysis of the girl’s cell phone data indicated she “frequented” Mr Berlusconi’s Arcore residence in a period spanning February to May of last year.

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