ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER Silvio Berlusconi was to stand trial today charged with paying for sex with an underage teenager and then abusing his office to cover up the affair, but the case has been adjourned until 31 May.
It is alleged Mr Berlusconi had sex with the teenage nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, who is known by the name of Ruby, when she was just 17, which is an offence under Italian law, the BBC reports.
Mr Berlusconi is charged with trying to cover up his connection with Miss El Mahroug by putting pressure on police to release her from custody after she was held on separate theft allegations. Although he acknowledges calling the police, he said he did not use improper influence to obtain her release, the Telegraph reports.
He says he never paid for sex with her and that she told him she was 24 years old.
Both Miss El Mahroug and Mr Berlusconi deny the charges and Miss El Mahroug denies being a prostitute.
If found guilty, Mr Berlusconi faces up to 15 years in jail.
A long trial is expected, with 20,000 pages of evidence to be presented and 40 women to be called as witnesses.
There will also be well known witnesses including Hollywood star George Clooney and his girlfriend, Italian model Elisabetta Canalis. They were said to have been guests at a party held by Mr Berlusconi.
However Reuters reports that the trial has been adjourned until 31 May, and that Mr Berlusconi and Ms El Mahroug were not present in court this morning.
This is one of four trials that Berlusconi is currently involved in.