Berlusconi still bankrolling bunga bunga girls

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Man Rossi, Reuters)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Man Rossi, Reuters)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still giving thousands of euros a month to aspiring showgirls who attended his colourful parties, a Milan court heard on Friday.

Weakened by a sex scandal and graft and tax fraud allegations, Berlusconi (76) was forced to resign a year ago as Italy came close to a Greek-style debt crisis.

But the centre-right leader, who recently announced he would not run as candidate for prime minister in next year's election, denies the charges and says there were no sex parties at his villa near Milan, just normal dinners.

On Friday, five women testifying in a trial in which associates of Berlusconi are accused of procuring prostitutes for him said they were still receiving cash gifts from the media magnate.

"Silvio Berlusconi still gives me 2 500 euros a month," said Elisa Toti, one of the girls who allegedly took part in the so-called "bunga bunga" sex parties.

She said the former premier had also helped her buy a house and a car, but denied having been paid to have sex with him.

The other women heard by the court also said they were receiving similar amounts from Berlusconi on a monthly basis.

In April, Berlusconi told reporters on the sidelines of a hearing that he was still giving money to the small army of women involved in the "bunga bunga" sex party case out of generosity, because they had been ruined and dishonoured by the bad publicity surrounding the trial.

In a separate but related trial, he is accused of allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute and of abusing his power to have her released from police custody.

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