* Investigation involves prostitution allegations
* Berlusconi denies wrongdoing in the case
* Allies say Berlusconi persecuted by magistrates
(Adds Ruby's quotes, lawyer)
By Emilio Parodi
MILAN, Jan 14 Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi faces a prostitution investigation in Milan over a
teenage nightclub dancer who attended parties at his private
residence, prosecutors said on Friday.
A day after Italy's top court partially struck down a law
that gave him blanket immunity from prosecution, the news added
pressure on the premier, who is battling to shore up his shaky
government and already faces tax fraud and corruption charges.
The magistrates said they are investigating allegations that
Berlusconi paid to have sex with 17-year-old Karima El Mahroug,
who used the stage name "Ruby Rubacuori" (Heartstealer). Paying
for sex with a prostitute under age 18 is an offence in Italy.
They are also examining whether he intervened improperly
with police to secure her release after she was held for theft.
Prosecutors said in a statement they were investigating
alleged crimes committed at Berlusconi's Arcore villa near Milan
between February and May 2010, when the girl was 17, and that
they had issued a summons to Berlusconi and his lawyers.
The prime minister's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini issued a
statement dismissing the investigation as "absurd and
groundless" and said the allegations had already been denied by
witnesses and those directly involved.
He later said in a separate statement that Berlusconi had
never had sex with the girl.
The case of "Ruby", a Moroccan runaway, caused an
international media storm last year and instantly made the
expression "bunga bunga" -- a term used by the young woman to
describe sex parties -- part of the Italian vocabulary.
She says she was paid 7,000 euros ($9,414) after attending a
party at Berlusconi's villa but has denied having sex with him.
In a Jan. 10 interview posted on the website of La
Repubblica daily on Friday, "Ruby" said she had been at
Berlusconi's residence three times and described the parties as
"You laugh and you joke, the only strange thing is that you
are in the house of the prime minister which isn't something
that happens every day," she said.
"For what I saw after three evenings together he didn't seem
very happy. To look at him he may appear happy, he's got lots of
money and everything he touches turns to gold ... (but) I think
he is someone who suffers a lot from loneliness."
Berlusconi, who has weathered a series of sex scandals
involving escorts and young women since returning to power in
2008, has acknowledged knowing Ruby and making a phone call to
police on her behalf last May.
But he says he was merely offering normal assistance to a
person in need and has denied pressuring officers to let her go.
He also says nothing improper has ever happened at his parties.
Berlusconi was placed under investigation last month but the
probe was only made public on Friday.
"TIRED OLD SCRIPT"
The 74 year-old premier's mounting legal woes have prompted
speculation that his government, which just survived a
no-confidence motion in parliament last month, may be close to
collapse, bringing early elections to Italy.
On Friday, Berlusconi told Canale 5 television that the
constitutional court ruling would not affect his government and
dismissed speculation that it would make snap polls more likely.
"The government will continue to go forward because the last
thing Italy needs is early elections," he said.
Berlusconi's grip on power has been greatly weakened by last
year's split with longtime ally Gianfranco Fini, which cost him
a secure majority in parliament. His legal problems have created
He has repeatedly denied the accusations against him and
says he is being targeted by politically biased magistrates. His
aides said the Milan probe was just the latest example of this.
"Faced with this tired old script made up of news leaks and
improbable accusations, Italians can choose once again whether
to get indignant or to yawn," said Daniele Capezzone, spokesman
for Berlusconi's PDL party.
"If there is still someone, in and outside politics, who
thinks they can defeat Berlusconi through the judiciary, they
will be badly disappointed," he said in a statement.
Police questioned a regional official close to Berlusconi
who went to pick up the girl at the police station when she was
released. A news director at Berlusconi's Mediaset (MS.MI)
broadcaster and a TV impresario are also under investigation in
(Writing by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Philippa Fletcher)