Silvio Berlusconi and the Moroccan teenager at the centre of an under-age prostitution probe targeting the Italian premier have denied there was any sexual contact between them.
Mr Berlusconi taped a video message – the second time in a few days – to defend himself from the probe by Milan prosecutors into his encounters with the teenager, nicknamed Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby the Heart-Stealer).
The 74-year-old prime minister accused prosecutors of using methods worthy of a Mafia criminal and said he would not respond to a summons this weekend because he did not want to give credence to an investigation he called illegitimate and politically driven.
“There’s nothing I should be ashamed of,” Mr Berlusconi said. “I would like to go on trial immediately – but with impartial judges, not with prosecutors who want to use this case as a means of political fight.”
Prosecutors claim Mr Berlusconi paid for sex with the girl, then a minor, and used his office to cover it up.
They have forwarded 389 pages of material, including wiretaps, to parliament to get special permission to search some of Mr Berlusconi’s properties. Examining the documents will take at least a week, news reports said.
Hours before Mr Berlusconi’s video statement, the teenager appeared on a talk show on the Mediaset network that the premier founded. Appearing composed during most of the two 20-minute segments, Ruby said she never worked as a prostitute and that Mr Berlusconi never “put a finger on me”.
Ruby, who asked to be called by her real name during the interview, said she met the premier after winding up at his villa last Valentine’s Day upon an invitation to dinner by a friend. At the time she was working as a waitress in a Milan restaurant, she said.
She said she introduced herself by her nickname Ruby, and gave her age as 24, although she was 17 at the time. She also said she was Egyptian, a lie she said she could not explain “He listened without being paid or obligated to do so. I felt heard,” she said. “I told him my whole story in sincerity – except for my name, my (real) age and for my country.”
At the end of dinner, also attended by other young women, Ruby said Mr Berlusconi invited her into his office and gave her an envelope with 7,000 euro (£5,900) which she opened in the car. “I meet him, he gives me 7,000 euro – and he doesn’t put a finger on me,” Ruby said. “I think I can speak well of a person like that,” she said.