di Riccardo D'Andrea
(ANSA) - Milan, October 19 - Ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday defended himself before a Milan court against charges of allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby and using his influence to cover it up while claiming she was the niece of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. ''I never had intimate relations of any kind,'' he said in a spontaneous declaration, adding he had been ''convinced'' the Moroccan ex-runaway and former belly dancer, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, had been 24 and not 17 at the time. He said he had been led to believe Ruby was related to the ex-Egyptian president during an official meeting of the two leaders and had simply wanted to avert a diplomatic incident by having her sprung from a Milan police station in May 2010. He added that he had never put pressure on police officials in Milan. Berlusconi told the court that when he found out that Ruby was Moroccan and underage he was ''left speechless'', realising that she had created a false identity possibly to cover up economic difficulties. Prosecutors believe Berlusconi had sex with 33 prostitutes at his villa in Arcore near Milan over the course of several months. ''I can rule out with absolute certainty that there have never been scenes of a sexual nature'' at Arcore, said the ex-premier. ''Many fantasic tales have been told about the evenings at my private residence,'' he continued, saying they were just ''dinners in a large dining hall where I monopolised the attention by singing, talking about sport, politics, gossip'' and that he had never paid for sex with his female guests. He described the charges as a ''monstrous act of defamation towards me and my guests''. Berlusconi also told the court that he would have preferred to be questioned rather than to make a spontaneous declaration but that 20 years of accusations by Milan judges had ''prevented me from doing so''. The ex-premier, who has been convicted in a number of graft cases but always seen them overturned either on appeal or because of law changes, has consistently said he is the victim of a witch hunt by some left-leaning magistrates.