Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi made a rare court appearance on Friday to deny some of the more salacious accusations at the centre of a sex scandal that has muddied his reputation.

The former Premier said he never had sex with underage Moroccan teen Karima el-Mahroug, never paid for sex with any guest at his villa near Milan and denied that so-called “bunga-bunga” parties that he held were in any way sexual.

“The expression ‘bunga-bunga’ comes from a joke that I have repeated many times, and that has been picked up viciously by the media,” said Mr. Berlusconi.

Mr. Berlusconi’s declaration was spontaneous, a practice that Italy allows defendants and which does not have the weight of sworn testimony. His lawyers have indicated that Mr. Berlusconi does not intend to testify.

The case is the first involving the three-time former Premier’s personal behaviour. Mr. Berlusconi stepped down as Premier last November after failing to persuade financial markets he could come up with convincing reforms to protect debt-laden Italy from the sovereign debt crisis.

If convicted of the charge of using his influence to cover up a crime, Mr. Berlusconi could be barred from public office.

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