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Berlusconi paid for sex with cash and favours: prosecutor

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Silvio Berlusconi hosted a "prostitution system" at his villa near Milan, where he paid women for sex with cash and favours, a prosecutor at the former prime minister's trial said on Monday.

Prosecutor Antonio Sangermano was presenting his final arguments ahead of a verdict expected later this month in Berlusconi's trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute in 2010.

Sangermano said Berlusconi associates arranged for the prostitutes and the then prime minister paid them off "with cash... and offers of professional advancement, including in the political world."

The former prime minister is accused of having sex for money around 10 times with then 17-year-old Moroccan-born dancer Karima El-Mahroug, known by her stage name "Ruby the Heart Stealer".

In a statement on Monday, Berlusconi said he was "a bit surprised and a bit amused" by the claims, adding that he had had "the good fortune" of not having to "pay a young lady or woman to have intimate relations".

The billionaire tycoon is also charged with having abused the powers while in office by getting El-Mahroug released from police custody when she was arrested, also in 2010, for petty theft.

Prosecutors say Berlusconi personally intervened because he was afraid that his illicit relationship with El-Mahroug would come out.

The trial in Milan began in April 2011.

Berlusconi received almost 30 percent of the vote in a general election last week, putting him in second place behind a centre-left coalition but meaning he will continue to be a key player.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130304/berlusconi-paid-sex-cash-and-favours-prosecutor