12:45 GMT +322 May 2019
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    Leader of the Italian right-wing party Forza Italia (Go Italy) Silvio Berlusconi looks on during a campaign rally in Milan on February 25, 2018

    Berlusconi Says He 'Never Met' Dead Model Who Testified Against Him in Sex Trial

    © AFP 2019 / Piero Cruciatti
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    Italian magistrates have launched an investigation into the possible murder of Imane Fadil, a 34-year-old Moroccan-born showgirl who served as a key witness in a prostitution trial against Berlusconi in 2012.

    Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has expressed his condolences for Fadil, who died on March 1 after a month-long illness, but insisted that he never met or spoke to the former showgirl.

    "It's always very sad when someone as young as this dies," the 82-year-old former prime minister said, according to Italian news agency ANSA. "But I never met this young woman and never spoke to her," he added.

    Berlusconi called Fadil's testimony in the case against him "invented and absurd."

    Fadil testified against Berlusconi in 2012, telling a court that young women had stripped for the prime minister at a lavish villa outside Milan while he was serving as Italy's prime minister. Fadil said she had attended eight of these 'prostitution parties', also known as "bunga bunga" parties, with some of women said to have engaged in sexual relations with Berlusconi.

    Berlusconi admitted that young women attended his soirees, but said the parties were nothing more than "burlesque contests." In the 2012 trial, he was accused of having sex with an underage night club dancer, and of abusing his power by trying to cover up the scandal. Berlusconi was initially found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison, but the charges against him were dropped after an appeals court ruled that even if he did have sexual relations with the teenager, he did not know that she was under 18. Berlusconi insisted throughout that the girl had told him she was 24 years old.

    Fadil was admitted to hospital on January 29 suffering from severe stomach pains. Doctors have yet to identify what caused her death, but said there had been "several anomalies" in her blood samples and medical records. Italy's ANSA news agency reported Saturday that toxicology tests indicated that she died of a "mix of radioactive substances." Before her death, Fadil reportedly told her friends and lawyers that she had been poisoned.

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