Three aides to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi were indicted on prostitution charges on Tuesday, and their trial is scheduled to begin in late November.
Emilio Fede, Nicole Minetti and Lele Mora allegedly found and hired prostitutes for Berlusconi, including a Moroccan dancer named Karima El Mahroug -- stage name Ruby -- who was underage at the time.
The news is the latest blow to Berlusconi's reputation, which may never recover. Years of allegations of adultery and scandal have damaged the Prime Minister's political career, and although the government passed his party's austerity package, Italians are wary to support the once popular leader.
Last month, Italian police arrested businessman Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto for trying to blackmail Berlusconi with scandalous evidence of misdeeds. The couple also allegedly hired prostitutes for the Prime Minister's infamous Bunga Bunga orgies, and used the information to extort money from the billionaire politician.
Berlusconi, who was not culpable in the blackmailing case, came to the defense of the couple for primarily selfish reasons, claiming that monetary payments were gifts and not used to keep anything secret.
I helped someone and a family with children who found themselves and continue to find themselves in very serious financial difficulty, Berlusconi told Italian magazine Panorama.
I didn't do anything illegal, I limited myself to helping a desperate man without asking for anything in exchange. That's how I'm made and nothing will change that.
The 74-year-old politician and billionaire media mogul is currently in the midst of his own prostitution case. Berlsuconi was first brought to court in April on prostitution charges after it was alleged that he paid for sex with Ruby, the underage Moroccan dancer, on multiple occasions. Both Berlusconi and 17-year-old El Mahroug deny that they had sexual intercourse, but after multiple delays the trial is finally set to begin in February.
Prostitution is not illegal in Italy, but paying for sex with a minor is.
The Bunga Bunga scandal began last fall when it was discovered that the always outrageous Berlusconi was throwing parties, during which he had relations with scores of women, many of whom were said to have been given cash and jewels. Berlusconi said the prizes were simply gifts for his friends.