A businessman who recruited young women to attend parties at Premier Silvio Berlusconi's homes has apologized to the premier for having contributed to a new scandal.
Giampaolo Tarantini also said in a statement late on Saturday that Berlusconi didn't know the expenses were paid, and said he was sorry that something that was meant well had turned into a mess for the premier.
Three women have told the reporters that at Tarantini's invitation they attended parties at the premier's residence last fall and in January.
The first, Patrizia D'Addario, described by her friends as a high-end prostitute from Bari, told Corriere della Sera last week that she was paid euro 1,000 ($1,400) to attend a party in October 2008 at the premier's residence in Rome, and then returned on Nov 4 and stayed the night.
D'Addario's friend, Barbara Montereale, told the left-leaning La Repubblica that she too attended the Nov 4 party, and then another at Berlusconi's Sardinian villa in mid-January.
For that party, Montereale said she received euro 1,000 from Tarantini and another envelope with cash from the premier himself after she confided she was having problems raising an infant alone. She stressed she wasn't a prostitute and didn't have sexual relations with the premier.
Both said they were offered candidacies in recent local elections in Bari.
A third woman, Lucia Rossini, told Repubblica she also attended the Nov 4 party, though she wasn't paid or offered a candidacy. Both she and Montereale say the premier gave them jewelry.
All three have been questioned by Bari police reportedly investigating Tarantini for alleged improprieties concerning contracts for his health care business.
In the statement, Tarantini said the women's stories were false. He apologized to Berlusconi for having "unwillingly hurt him".
He said he invited the women to the parties because he wanted to present a good impression to Berlusconi. "It's absolutely beyond discussion that Premier Berlusconi could have been aware of my reimbursements" to the women, he said.