Berlusconi prostitution probe widens in Italy

Prosecutors investigating Premier Silvio Berlusconi on suspicion he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl have provided 200 more pages of documentation to lawmakers who must decide whether to authorize police searches of the premier's properties.

The documents include references to another minor, a Brazilian, who allegedly received jewels and other gifts in exchange for her participation at parties at a Berlusconi villa, according to Italian news agency LaPresse and other news reports Thursday.

The revelations that another minor might have been at some of Berlusconi's parties widens the probe and potentially adds to the 74-year-old leader's woes. Berlusconi has denied ever paying for sex and called the allegations against him "outrageous."

Milan prosecutors sent the additional documentation from their investigation to a parliamentary committee to back up their request to search some of Berlusconi's properties. The prosecutors had already provided almost 400 pages of documents and alleged evidence against Berlusconi last week.

The committee, where Berlusconi's allies have a majority, recommended Thursday to send the case back to the prosecutors on technical grounds. The matter now passes to the full lower Chamber of Deputies.

In addition to being premier, Berlusconi is a member of the lower chamber. The house's members enjoy parliamentary immunity from arrest or searches in criminal probes, unless lawmakers decide otherwise on a case-by-case basis.

The new documents reportedly include wiretaps of conversations between the young women who attended Berlusconi's parties, alleged evidence of payments to them and reports from police searches conducted earlier this month at some of the women's homes.

The most potentially dangerous revelations involve the Brazilian woman. The documents list necklaces, bracelets, pendants and other jewels she allegedly received "in exchange for her repeated participation at parties at Berlusconi's villas," according to excerpts of the documents cited by LaPresse and seen by The Associated Press. The materials were seized during a Jan. 14 search at the woman's home.

The documents also say the woman was at a Berlusconi villa on Nov. 22, 2009, according to LaPresse. The ANSA news agency said the woman is known to investigators to be a prostitute and that she also was at Berlusconi's villa in Arcore, near Milan, on Dec. 13, 2009.

The documents reportedly cite several other dates in which the Brazilian was allegedly at Berlusconi's villas. But those two are more significant because the woman, who was reportedly born on Dec. 29, 1991, was then a minor.

Paying for sex with a prostitute is not a crime in Italy, unless the prostitute is under 18.

The documents also include purported conversations between a Berlusconi associate also under investigation in the case, Nicole Minetti, and a friend, in which Minetti insults Berlusconi and accuses him of having dragged her into "a mess."

Minetti, a former showgirl and dental hygienist recently elected at a local post with Berlusconi's party, told Corriere della Sera on Thursday that she was just venting in a moment of rage, and that the premier remains her "point of reference."

Berlusconi has repeatedly denied the allegations against him and accused the prosecutors of mounting politically motivated probes to drive him from office. Amid news reports that his parties involve topless girls and sexually-enticing dancing, he has insisted the dinner parties at his villas are elegant and proper affairs and that he has nothing to be ashamed of.

The Moroccan girl at the center of the probe, known as Ruby, also has denied sexual relations with the premier. But the girl, who has in the meantime turned 18, said Berlusconi gave her euro7,000 ($9,400) to help her out financially. She has said that when she was introduced to Berlusconi, she told him she was 24.

The scandal is proving embarrassing for the government.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini acknowledged in a meeting with foreign journalists that the reports in Italian newspapers raise questions from foreign officials, and said he tells them that the breaking of secrecy while an investigation is under way "shouldn't happen."

Frattini insisted the government is confident it will push ahead with its program despite what he called "attacks" from the magistrates and the media and massive violations of privacy.

"Do not confuse allegations with evidence," he said.

"I believe the reports are not true," Frattini said, adding that Berlusconi's defense lawyers have found contradictions in alleged witness testimony and that he finds it hard to believe that wild parties could take place in places where security people, waiters and other help would be around to witness them.

Berlusconi's five-year term expires in 2013.

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Victor L. Simpson contributed to this report.