Former Italian Prime Minister, media mogul and all-around incorrigible womanizer Silvio Berlusconi told a courtroom in Milan that he never paid to have sex with an underage Moroccan girl during his otherwise allegedly wild "Bunga Bunga" parties.
Berlusconi, whose last term as Italy’s leader ended about one year ago during the depths of the economic crisis, even said that scenes “of a sexual nature" never occurred at his villa in Arcore, just outside Milan.
Berlusconi, 76, is facing charges that he solicited sex from an underage girl nicknamed “Ruby” Rubacuori ("the heart-stealer") -- real name Karima El-Mahroug -- when she was only 17 in 2010.
"I have never had any intimate relations with her," Berlusconi told the panel of judges (all of whom are female).
Ruby has also denied having sex with the former prime minister when she was underage (and declared she is not a prostitute).
Prosecutors maintain, however, that Berlusconi had sex with the girl on at least 13 occasions. They also allege that women were procured specifically to provide sex at various parties held at Berlusconi’s residence.
Indeed, the trial, which commenced in April 2011, has featured a number of models and showgirls as witnesses testifying that women would appear at Berlusconi's luxury mansion dressed as police officers, nuns and other costumes (some even wearing Barack Obama masks) to perform lap dances and strip teases.
Berlusconi also denied pressuring Milan police to release her from custody when she had been arrested for theft. Prosecutors allege that Berlusconi tried to use his influence to free the girl by claiming she was the granddaughter of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"I have never exercised pressure on officials of the Milan police," Berlusconi testified.
"The girl said she was Egyptian, coming from an important family related to Mubarak,” adding that he merely sought to prevent a diplomatic incident from erupting.
But Berlusconi admitted that his accountant gave Ruby "several thousand euros after constant requests.”
Berlusconi also seemed to defend his private life and struck out at his many critics, particularly the media, which he has long characterized as left-wing.
"There has been a lot of fantasizing about the parties I held in my private residence with clear defamatory intent and intrusion into my private life,” he told the judges.
"They were just dinners in which I monopolized the attention, singing, talking about sport, politics and gossiping. ... Everything happened in front of the staff, and at times my children too came in to say hello. I never paid money to have intimate relationships with my female guests, and my female guests could not be considered escorts.”
As for the term "bunga bunga," which has now entered Italian discourse, perhaps permanently, Berlusconi said it was "only a joke I used to tell which then got picked up by the press.”
Berlusconi even introduced a list of 78 witnesses who attended his parties -- many of them luminaries from the worlds of sports and entertainment, including Real Madrid football players Cristiano Ronaldo and Hollywood actor George Clooney -- to testify on his behalf.
It is unclear if any of these celebrity witnesses will actually show up in court.
One of the strongest voices of support for the billionaire has come from Daniele Santanche, a center-right MP, who believes all charges against him are false.
"It's a trial that should never have started," she said.
"I hope the sentence has not already been reached by the judges, because that would be a serious blow to Italian justice."
Berlusconi faces up to 15 years in prison if he is found guilty -- three years for exploiting an underage girl and up to 12 years for abuse of power (in connection with the Milan police incident).