ROME -- Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday dismissed as "media trash" reports that two television executives helped introduce an underage girl into his entourage. It's the second time in as many years that Berlusconi has been linked to a purported prostitute scandal.
Leading daily Corriere della Sera said Thursday that a news director from Berlusconi's Mediaset empire and a TV impresario had been placed under investigation for allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution involving a 17-year-old Moroccan runaway named Ruby.
Without citing sources, several newspapers have reported that Ruby told prosecutors she attended dinners at Berlusconi's villa in Arcore, outside Milan, although she has denied having sex with the premier.
Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini said Wednesday such reports were "completely unfounded."
Asked about the investigation Thursday during a press conference about the garbage crisis in Naples, Berlusconi quipped: "I'm here to talk about real trash. Media trash I leave to you."
Il Fatto Quotidiano, a left-leaning newspaper that is frequently critical of Berlusconi, first reported this week that Milan prosecutors were looking into Ruby's story after police discovered her without documents and reported her to social workers. She reportedly admitted she had lied about being over 18.
According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, Ruby's story is full of contradictions and even prosecutors are wary of her claims.
But Emilio Fede, a Berlusconi confidante who is the news director of Mediaset's Channel 4, acknowledged in comments to the ANSA news agency Thursday that he had met Ruby a few times at Berlusconi's villa. He said he hadn't introduced her to Berlusconi, however, and said he wasn't aware of being under investigation for any actual crime.
"I have luckily been invited to Berlusconi's home for dinners but what I can say is that I have never once seen a dinner end in any way that could be defined as 'transgressive,"' ANSA quoted Fede as saying.
It's the second time in as many years that Berlusconi has been linked to alleged prostitutes.
Last year, a high-end escort Patrizia D'Addario made headlines when she claimed she had spent the night with the premier and had tape recorded their encounter. Her revelations came after Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, announced she was divorcing him, citing his fondness for young women.
After Lario's announcement, several young women went public with stories that they had been paid to attend parties at Berlusconi's homes in Rome and Sardinia. D'Addario said she had been paid by a Bari businessman, Giampaolo Tarantini, to attend.
The conservative Italian leader has said he has never paid anyone for sex and was the victim of someone seeking to create a scandal. Prosecutors have long said Berlusconi was not under investigation.