Embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could face a prostitution investigation, Italian media reported on Friday, a day after a constitutional court nullified a law that would have protected the premier from trial over charges of corruption and tax fraud.
Corriere della Sera, one of Italy's leading newspapers, reported that investigators are looking into Berlusconi's role in securing the release of a 17-year-old Moroccan girl involved in a prostitution case.
According to the ANSA news agency, prosecutors have already summoned Berlusconi while Corriere reported that police searched the offices of two of his aides.
Berlusconi had denied any impropriety when the issue became public months ago though he admitted to helping someone in need.
Quoting sources, Reuters said the investigators will also look into underage prostitution allegations.
The prime minister had come under a shadow though the girl, who had visited his villa, denied having sex with him.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi said on Friday the constitutional court's ruling will not have any impact on his government nor will cause an early poll.
Yesterday's decision by the constitutional court has absolutely no influence, the government will continue to go forward because the last thing Italy needs is early elections, Berlusconi told Canale 5 television.
Berlusconi had been able to force through parliament a controversial law protecting him and other top government functionaries from facing criminal trials. According to the law, judges were bound to put off for up to 18 months any criminal proceedings against cabinet ministers if the prime minister's office said it would be an impediment to their work as government functionaries.
In a nuanced verdict, the court upheld that the trial of cabinet members can be put on hold, but handed the judges, not the premier's office, the right to determine if the situation warranted the clause's use.
The new interpretation by the court means the prime minister, who heads a wobbly coalition, could go under trial for three charges of tax fraud, corruption and embezzlement.
He has denied the charges, long pending at courts. Berlusconi's enduring struggle with law has seen him using parliamentary majority to pass laws shielding him from criminal proceedings.
The constitutional court had annulled a law in 2008 that had given the premier immunity from prosecution. The prime minister swung around the situation by crafting the law that required courts to postpone trial proceedings against top functionaries.
Now that the court has taken away the shield and the coalition showing cracks, Berlusconi's position could become increasingly vulnerable. He narrowly scraped through a confidence vote last month as former Chamber of Deputies speaker Gianfranco Fini's Future and Freedom Party withdrew support.