21 Jan 2011

Vatican demands higher morals from Italian politicians

4:42 pm on 21 January 2011

The Vatican is demanding higher moral standards from Italian politicians amid allegations that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi organised sex parties with young prostitutes.

The BBC reports this may go down as one of the worst weeks in the career of Mr Berlusconi, having been accused of paying under-age prostitutes for sex.

Magistrates on Friday opened an investigation into Mr Berlusconi.

The Prime Minister has dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and vowed to punish the magistrates behind it.

The Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the Catholic Church is particularly worried about the impact of the scandal and urged politicians to show robust morality.

Much of the investigation focuses on Karima El Mahroug, an 18-year-old Moroccan belly-dancer who attended Mr Berlusconi's parties when she was 17 and, according to prosecutors, was paid to have sex with him.

Sex with a prostitute aged under 18 is an offence in Italy.

Mr Berlusconi and Ms Mahroug have denied having sexual relations, and she has described a sum of 7000 euros that he gave her as a gift.