Berlusconi's girlfriend says she saved him from hangers-on

ROME Wed Oct 9, 2013 1:38pm EDT

Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend Francesca Pascale is seen through a car window as she arrives at Grazioli palace, downtown Rome June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend Francesca Pascale is seen through a car window as she arrives at Grazioli palace, downtown Rome June 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

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ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi lived in chaos, taken advantage of by hangers-on and vastly overpaid for groceries, his girlfriend said in the latest interview about her relationship with the politician 49 years her senior.

As the political fortunes of the four-times Italian prime minister appear to be waning, his relationship with Francesca Pascale, 28, is gaining ever more publicity in the Italian media where the 77-year-old made his fortune.

Pascale, who caught Berlusconi's eye when she founded a fan club called "We Miss You Silvio", appeared with him on the cover of Italian Vanity Fair last month and divulged fresh details of their life together to another magazine this week.

She said she discovered an "unacceptable" mess when she moved into his mansion with her poodle Dudu earlier this year.

"Many people were taking advantage of him," Pascale told Italian weekly Oggi.

"I had to intervene. They were paying 80 euros ($110) a kilo for string beans, can you believe it? Huge crates of fish were being delivered to the house when everyone knows the president doesn't eat fish, he even hates the smell."

The Berlusconi family has an estimated wealth of $6.2 billion, according to Forbes, including television empire Mediaset, a publishing house and football club AC Milan.

But the center-right leader's political future is in doubt due to a tax fraud conviction that could see him evicted from parliament.

Press reports have told of how Pascale ruled Berlusconi's Rome residence with an iron fist as it became the focus of political turbulence last week, when he threatened to bring down the government.

"The truth is that I have my head screwed on, I say what I think, I sort things out and he likes it," said Pascale, who hopes to marry the media mogul once his divorce from second wife Veronica Lario is finalized.

The interviews appear to be in part aimed at changing Berlusconi's public image, damaged by reports of "bunga bunga" sex parties at his villas and giving expensive gifts to a series of glamorous young women.

Berlusconi's lawyers are expected to ask this week that he serve his one-year tax fraud sentence doing community service. He is appealing other convictions including paying for sex with a minor.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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