A businessman who recruited young women to attend parties at Silvio Berlusconi's homes has apologised to the Prime Minister for the scandal.
Giampaolo Tarantini told the Italian news agency Ansa that he only reimbursed their travel costs and expenses, denying suggestions that he paid the women, reportedly including a high-end prostitute, to attend.
Mr Tarantini has been at the centre of new allegations concerning Mr Berlusconi's purported fondness for younger women. The Prime Minister has called such allegations "garbage" and accused the media of a smear campaign. Three women have told Italian newspapers that at Mr Tarantini's invitation they attended parties at the Berlusconi residence.
The first, Patrizia D'Addario, described by her friends as a high-end prostitute from Bari, told Corriere della Sera last week that she was paid €1,000 (£850) to attend a party in October 2008 at the Prime Minister's residence in Rome, and then returned on 4 November and stayed the night.
She told Corriere she wore a recording device during her time with Mr Berlusconi – recordings that have been turned over to Bari prosecutors.
Ms D'Addario's friend, Barbara Montereale, told La Repubblica on Saturday that she, too, attended the 4 November party, and then another at Mr Berlusconi's Sardinian villa in mid-January.
For that party – to which she was flown on a private jet – Ms Montereale said she received €1,000 from Mr Tarantini and another envelope with cash from the Prime Minister himself after she confided she was having problems raising an infant alone.
Mr Tarantini said he invited the women to the parties because he wanted to present a "bella figura" – a good impression – to Mr Berlusconi, whom he had only recently met. "It's absolutely beyond discussion that Mr Berlusconi could have been aware of my reimbursements" to the women, he said.