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Berlusconi: Latin lover who admits he's a sinner


Silvio Berlusconi's upcoming trial for buying sex with an underage girl announced on Tuesday is only the latest in a series of scandals involving the 74-year-old Italian prime minister's womanising.

Berlusconi has long boasted of his prowess with women and his sexist quips have become famous, like the time in 2005 when he said he had used his "playboy tactics" for political advantage with then Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

Or the time in 2003 when he told US businessmen that they should invest in Italy because it has "beautiful secretaries" and "superb girls".

But the scandal over Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer" is far more serious as he stands accused not only of having sex with a girl who was 17 at the time but also of using the power of his office to cover it up.

His first major sex scandal erupted in May 2009 when media reports accused him of an inappropriate relationship with Noemi Letizia, an underage model.

Photographs of the prime minister attending Letizia's 18th birthday party were particularly damaging, as was her nickname for him: "Papi".

His wife, Veronica Lario, who has long stayed out of the public eye, said she wanted a divorce because her husband "cavorts with minors."

Berlusconi rejected all the allegations as a left-wing plot against him by prosecutors -- a tactic that he used in subsequent scandals.

Three weeks after the scandal over Letizia first broke, paparazzi photos showed topless women wandering around Berlusconi's luxury villa in Sardinia.

In June of the same year, Patrizia D'Addario, a prostitute, spoke to the media, saying she was paid 2,000 euros a night by a party organiser to sleep with Berlusconi.

In a book, she detailed her night of passion with Berlusconi at his residence in central Rome under a duvet that she said had been given to the Italian leader by Rusisan Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In October 2010, reports first started appearing in Italian newspapers of an investigation into Berlusconi's links with a young woman called Ruby.

He dismissed the allegations with an anti-gay jibe in November, saying: "It is better to be passionate about beautiful girls than to be gay."

Prosecutors opened a formal inquiry against Berlusconi in December.

Berlusconi has said he is "a sinner" but has denied ever paying for sex and has accused prosecutors of plotting against him for political ends.

His supporters say the left-wing opposition is mounting a moralistic trial by media against a politician who should have a right to a private life.