Milan

Showgirl, journalist accepted houses, money from Berlusconi

'Gestures of affection, not payment for sex' witnesses say

Showgirl, journalist accepted houses, money from Berlusconi

(ANSA) - Milan, July 13 - An Italian TV journalist testified to accepting two houses from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and a former showgirl said he gave her 60,000 euros but both denied ever offering sex for payouts. "He bought me two houses, he gave me the money as a gesture of affection for our friendly relationship, not intimate," said Silvia Trevaini, who works for Berlusconi's television empire Mediaset. Prosecutors questioned Trevaini about nights she spent at the ex-premier's villa in Arcore outside Milan and why he paid her 440,000 euros, which she said went towards the two homes. Prosecutors then questioned Imma De Vivo, an ex-showgirl who along with her twin sister Eleanora also spent evenings at Berlusconi's mansion. "I'm not working at the moment. I've recently gotten some help from Berlusconi, three payments, two for 15,000 euros and one for 30,000," she said. The De Vivo sisters were both questioned for 72,000 euros received in their father's name from the ex-premier's account, money they said went towards living expenses. Both denied ever having "sexual relations for money" with the premier, and described the evenings at his villa as occasions full of "dance routines and shows, like what you see in resorts," according to Imma. Prosecutors say Berlusconi had sex with 33 alleged prostitutes at his villa over the course of several evenings. The former premier is accused of paying for sex with an underage Moroccan runaway called Ruby and trying to cover it up by abusing his office. Berlusconi has stressed that both he and Ruby deny having sex and has quipped "33 women in two months is too many even for someone who likes pretty girls, like me". He claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors who have allegedly been conducting a witch-hunt against him since he entered politics in 1994. The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years. The Ruby trial, which opened last April, is expected to run for years, with dozens of witnesses called by the prosecution and defence including George Clooney and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

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