Jan. 23--MILAN _Prosecutors are investigating ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and his defence for allegedly paying witnesses to give false testimony at his trial for having sex with an underage prostitute.
Among 45 people under investigation in the probe is Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima Mahroug, who Berlusconi was convicted of paying for sex when she was underage and abusing his powers of office to hide the liaison.
Berlusconi is appealing the June 2013 verdict and the seven-year prison sentence and life ban from public office handed him by the Milan court at his so-called "bunga bunga" trial.
The judges who convicted Berlusconi have asked prosecutors to investigate whether he and his lawyers had "systematically" tampered with evidence by paying off showgirls who were called to testify at the trial by the defence.
Several of them admitted in court to receiving monthly payments from Berlusconi of at least 2,500 euros.
Besides dozens of defence witnesses, Berlusconi's lawyers Nicolo Ghedini and Piero Longo are being probed.
"In Italy today the law is equally unjust for all citizens," Berlusconi commented in a statement sent to a meeting of international jurists on Thursday.
Milan prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said the new probe involving Berlusconi was "a duty".
If prosecutors find enough evidence and a judge agrees, Berlusconi and the others could stand trial for perverting the course of justice, which carries a minimum penalty of four years' imprisonment and a maximum one of 10 years.
A Milan court will decide in April if the 77-year-old billionaire and media tycoon should be allowed serve a jail sentence for tax fraud by doing community service.
Italy's top appeals court in August upheld's tax fraud conviction, ruling that Berlusconi orchestrated a giant tax evasion scam at his Mediaset television empire.
Until the judges' decision, Berlusconi remains a free man and is still active in politics as leader of Italy's largest opposition party, Forza Italia.
After his 1 August tax fraud conviction, he was stripped of his seat in Italy's Senate upper house of parliament and barred from holding public office for two years.
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Berlusconi probed for bribing witnesses at his sex trial
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