'Bunga bunga' win for Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi's acquittal in his notorious "bunga bunga" case has been upheld by Italy's highest court .
It gives the former Italian prime minister a welcome legal victory as he tries to rally his Forza Italia party ahead of regional elections in May.
The Court of Cassation in Rome rejected a prosecutors' appeal and confirmed Mr Berlusconi's acquittal on charges that he paid for sex with an under-age prostitute during raunchy "bunga bunga" parties at his Milan villa, and used his influence to cover it up.
A lower court had convicted the three-time premier of both charges, and sentenced him to seven years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office. But an appeal court reversed the verdict last year - a decision that was confirmed by the Cassation.
The high court, which deliberated for more than nine hours before releasing its decision just before midnight, will issue its written ruling detailing its reasoning within 90 days.
Defence lawyer Michaela Andresano said: "It's a great success. The court accepted our arguments and rejected the prosecutors' appeal."
Prosecutors alleged that Mr Berlusconi paid Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, for sex while she was a minor and then intervened with police in 2010 to have her released when she was picked up on suspicion of theft.
Both Mr Berlusconi and Miss el-Mahroug, who was 17 at the time, denied ever having sex.
Mr Berlusconi has long maintained his legal woes were the result of left-leaning magistrates.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Eduardo Scardaccione argued there was no way that Mr Berlusconi did not know Miss el-Mahroug's age. He charged that a police official "couldn't resist the pressure" to release the girl when Mr Berlusconi called him at home near midnight after she had been detained.
Lead defence lawyer Franco Coppi argued there was no proof Mr Berlusconi knew Miss el-Mahroug's age and his call to the police official contained no threats, "explicit or implicit".
Mr Berlusconi completed his community service stint last week for a tax fraud conviction that also cost him his seat in the Italian parliament.
Despite the high court victory, his legal problems are not over. Milan prosecutors are also investigating him for allegedly paying off witnesses in the "bunga bunga" case, and he is still on trial in Naples for alleged political corruption.