'Berlusconi tried to cover up teen dancer links'

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Old 15-Jun-2011
Post 'Berlusconi tried to cover up teen dancer links'

London: More trouble seems to be brewing for Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi after it emerged that he tried to cover up his relationship with a teenage nightclub dancer, a charge which prosecutors say was similar to a "military attack".

Berlusconi, who has been embroiled in several sex scandals, was now accused of abusing his office by telephoning a Milan police station and putting officers under pressure to release Karima El Mahroug, known by her stage name as Ruby the Heart Stealer, from arrest on a charge of theft.

The claims by prosecutors came at the resumption of the trial in which he is accused of paying the young woman for sex, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the report, 74-year-old Prime Minister then allegedly sent two associates to collect the 17-year-old El Mahroug from the police station.

The associates were Nicole Minetti, an Anglo-Italian showgirl who his party elevated into politics, and Michelle Conceicao, a Brazilian starlet who was known to the prime minister.

"It was a military attack, an encirclement, and it was all directed towards the police station," the lead prosecutor in the case Ilda Boccassini was quoted as saying.

Berlusconi's attempt to bail out the teenager occurred on the night of May 27 2010, after she had been accused by a friend of stealing several thousand euros in cash and arrested by police.

Prosecutors claim that Berlusconi was terrified that the she would spill the beans on their relationship and that he did all he could to extricate her from questioning.

Boccassini dismissed an plea application made by Berlusconi's lawyers for the case to be either dropped entirely or transferred to Rome to be heard by a special tribunal of ministers.

She insisted that the Milan court had full jurisdiction over the case, contrary to what the prime minister's legal team argued during a hearing last week.

Prosecutors also dismissed the premier's claims that his privacy was invaded when investigators wiretapped the mobile phones of people who attended private parties at his mansion in Arcore outside Milan, including a string of television starlets and aspiring showgirls.

"Everything was done with respect for the law and the constitution," Boccassini said.

Berlusconi, who suffered a heavy blow on Monday when Italians overwhelmingly rejected four of his governments key policies after voting in national referendums, denies paying El Mahroug for sexual relations but faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

The Moroccan-born dancer, who recently told a magazine that she was pregnant by her nightclub owner boyfriend, also insists that she never slept with the billionaire tycoon.

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