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Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, 76, reveals plans to marry 27-year-old

By CNN Staff
December 19, 2012 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Berlusconi's bride-to-be is 27-year-old Francesca Pascale
  • "What can a man of 76 do with a 27-year-old girl?" a butcher asks
  • Italy's former prime minister faces trial on charges he hired an underage prostitute for sex
  • Berlusconi dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades until resigning last year

Rome (CNN) -- Italy's flamboyant former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi plans to marry a former television showgirl-turned-politician a half century younger, he told an Italian talk show this week.

Francesca Pascale, 27, is "a girl who is beautiful on the outside, but even more beautiful on the inside," the 76-year-old Berlusconi said.

The billionaire, who resigned as prime minister just over a year ago at the height of his country's debt crisis, told an interviewer earlier this month that he will run again to be Italy's leader.

The bride-to-be is from Naples, Italy, where she appeared as a showgirl on a local television station. She later became an activist and was elected to be a local council official representing Berlusconi's People of Liberty Party.

Italians on the street -- or at the market -- revealed mixed feelings about Berlusconi's latest news.

Berlusconi plans to run again

"If it's fine for him an also for her, it should be fine for everyone," said one shopper.

A butcher who was asked said he found it hard to believe. "What can a man of 76 do with a 27-year-old girl?" he asked.

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Berlusconi, who has been married twice before, is accused of involvement with someone even younger.

He faces trial on charges that he hired an underage prostitute for sex and later tried to pull strings to get her out of jail when she was accused of theft. The woman involved in the long-running case is Moroccan dancer Karima el Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the Heart-stealer."

Berlusconi has been accused of embezzlement, fraud and bribery over his career, but a tax-evasion case marked the first time he had been convicted of an offense.

In October, a Milan court sentenced Berlusconi to four years in prison for tax evasion.

However, under the Italian legal system, he and his fellow defendants have the right to appeal their sentence twice, in the appeals court and a higher court.

Also, because the case dates to July 2006, the statute of limitations will expire next year, meaning there is a good chance none of the defendants will serve any prison time.

Berlusconi, who dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades, did not reveal a wedding date.

CNN's Ben Wedeman in Rome contributed to this report.

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