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Berlusconi 'paid off' witnesses

An Italian court has accused ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his lawyers of tampering with evidence by paying off witnesses in a trial related to his notorious "bunga bunga" parties.

Citing testimony and telephone wiretaps, the Milan court said Mr Berlusconi gathered about a dozen young women at his Milan mansion on January 15, 2011 to meet his lawyers after the women's homes were searched as part of the police investigation into the parties.

From then on, the judges wrote, the women began receiving 2,500 euros (£2,080) each month from Mr Berlusconi and subsequently they offered unusually identical testimony in court denying that the parties had sexual overtones.

The court made the accusation in explaining its decision to convict three of Mr Berlusconi's former associates of procuring girls to prostitute themselves at the parties.

AP

In a statement, Berlusconi lawyers Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo said there was "no connection whatsoever" between the January 2011 meeting and the payments the girls received, which the lawyers said only began in March of the following year.

The evidence tampering accusations, they said, "are completely disconnected from reality and factual substantiation." They predicted that prosecutors, who had all this evidence in their possession earlier and didn't press charges, would drop the case.

AP

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