Milan judges quiz woman at heart of Berlusconi inquiry

The judges yesterday summoned Nicole Minetti as part of a probe into the prime minister's alleged dalliances with under-age prostitutes.

Originally scheduled for Tuesday, they brought forward the session to allow Minetti to escape excessive media attention, ANSA reported, citing her lawyer Daria Pesce.
The session lasted two hours, the agency added.

The Milan investigation was sparked by allegations that the prime minister paid to have sex with an underage girl known as Ruby, real name Karima El Mahroug. Both she and Berlusconi have denied the allegations.

When Ruby was arrested last May for alleged theft, Berlusconi is said to have put pressure on police in Milan to release her and place the Moroccan disco dancer in Minetti's custody.

Minetti, a former dental assistant who became a regional councillor for Berlusconi's party in early 2010, has always denied accusations of inciting prostitution and has publicly defended Berlusconi.

She is less flattering about him however in wire- tapped conversations published in the Italian media in recent days.

Berlusconi himself has been criticised for refusing to appear before judges who accuse him of having used prostitutes he kept in rent-free luxury apartments and of having held orgies at his private villas.

Berlusconi has accused Italy's judges of waging a personal campaign against him, and says that in any case the Milan court is not competent to carry out the investigation.
But on Friday he said he would go before any judge appointed to him by a special court to try ministers.

The three judges leading the investigation into Berlusconi's sex life are expected to call for fast-track proceedings against him in the next few days, ANSA reported.

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