Ex-showgirl denies being Berlusconi 'pimp'
Rome - A former showgirl turned local politician for Silvio Berlusconi's ruling party denied on Thursday accusations from prosecutors of being a "brothel manager" for the Italian prime minister.
At a pre-trial hearing in Milan this week, a prosecutor accused Nicole Minetti, a local councillor for the People of Freedom party in the northern Lombardy region, of procuring young women for the 74-year-old Berlusconi.
Interviewed by Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the 26-year-old brunette denied the charge, saying she was "completely extraneous to the facts".
"Me in a brothel? When I was born they didn't even exist," she added.
Berlusconi is a defendant in a separate trial on charges of paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then using the power of his office to try to cover up the crime - the latter charge punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
The prime minister and the girl in question, a nightclub dancer named Karima El Mahroug, better known by her stage name of "Ruby the Heart Stealer", have denied having sex during allegedly raunchy parties at his villa near Milan.
"All this is absolutely false," Minetti told Corriere della Sera.
Minetti, celebrity agent Lele Mora and television journalist Emilio Fede - all friends of Berlusconi - are suspected of pimping for the Italian leader.
Prosecutor Pietro Forno on Monday said there was an "organised structure" in which Mora recruited the girls, Fede socialised with them and Minetti acted as "the brother manager, paying salaries and choosing locations".
Minetti said she had close ties with Berlusconi: "We don't see each other often but he's a person I like very much, whom I care about a lot."
The former dental hygienist also expressed confidence that her innocence would be proved in the end, saying: "Patience is the virtue of the strong."