Image: Silvio Berlusconi
Shane McMillan  /  AP
Lawyers for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi say the allegations are "absurd and groundless."
updated 1/14/2011 7:18:04 AM ET 2011-01-14T12:18:04

Italy's leading newspaper reported Friday that Premier Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation in a prostitution case involving a 17-year-old Moroccan girl.

Corriere della Sera said in its online editions that the 74-year-old premier is suspected of abusing his power in trying to cover up his alleged sexual encounters with the girl, known as Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby the Heartstealer).

The ANSA news agency said Milan prosecutors on Friday summoned Berlusconi. Corriere said police were searching the offices of two of his aides.

Lawyers for Berlusconi confirmed that he was under investigation, but said the allegations were "absurd and groundless."

Nicolo Ghedini and Piero Longo said the probe represented a "very serious interference in the prime minister's private life." They said the allegations "have already been refuted by all witnesses and people directly involved."

The probe, if confirmed, will be the latest development in Berlusconi's long history of legal woes.

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A day earlier, a law shielding the premier from two, unrelated trials in Milan was significantly watered down by a ruling of Italy's Constitutional Court.

The Ruby case became public months ago when it emerged that Berlusconi had intervened to secure the release from police custody of the girl, who had been held for theft.

Berlusconi said at the time that he had done nothing wrong, and that he had only intervened to help someone in need.

The girl said in newspaper interviews that she had been at the premier's villa and that she lied about being over 18. She denied having sex with the premier.

The girl has in the meantime turned 18.

Story: Italy: Court ruling weakens Berlusconi's immunity

According to Corriere, the prosecutors allege that Berlusconi abused his power when he called Milan police on the night of May 27-28 to secure the release of the girl.

The prosecutors believe he did so because he wanted to hide the fact that he had been with her, according to the report.

Daniele Capezzone, a spokesman for Berlusconi's party, said the latest legal case would fail.

"If someone ... still believes that Silvio Berlusconi can be defeated through judicial means, once again they will be sorely disappointed," he said.

Berlusconi's office said it had no immediate comment. The office of Milan prosecutor Antonio Sangermano said he was not available for comment.

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