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Berlusconi's exploits detailed in phone taps

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Sept. 14, 2011.
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has gotten away with antics and exploits that would have brought most Western leaders to the point of political ruin.

But this time, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, he's testing his countrymens' famous tolerance to the limit.

Wire taps have caught Berlusconi in a series of sordid revelations about women in his private life.

"Last night I had a queue outside my door... there were eleven of them. I only managed eight, but this morning I feel great," the 74-year-old Italian leader boasts in one conversation. "I'm quite pleased with my stamina."

The extraordinary tapping of 100,000 telephone conversations - which is legal in Italy - took place over several years as part of an investigation into whether convicted cocaine dealer Gianpaolo Tarantini recruited prostitutes for Berlusconi, and then tried to blackmail him in exchange for silence.

Among the details which even Italy's freewheeling press said were too salacious to print, is a quote of Berlusconi saying he is "just a prime minister in my spare time," and lamenting that a week of meetings with the Pope and European leaders was getting in the way of time with "my babes".

The revelations come hard on the heels of riots over a $75 billion austerity package that will hit Italy's pensioners and public services hard.

Berlusconi is already on trial for allegedly paying for sex with a then-underage showgirl, who went by the stage name "Ruby Heartstealer."

He is also on trial in three other cases - one of which saw him return to court Monday morning to defend himself against charges he bribed a British lawyer to lie in court in the 1990s to protect his business deals.

Berlusconi was silent as he entered the court in Milan on Monday, but quipped later with reporters in the courtroom: "I'm fine, it's you who look bad."

After the "Rubygate" scandal broke, Italian women took to the streets in their tens of thousands to demand that Berlusconi go - with predictable results; he laughed and kept going on his way.

And what a way it has been.

The wire taps indicate that, even though he is Italy's richest man, Berlusconi used tax payers' money and an official plane to fly young women to his so-called "bunga bunga" parties.

His own party is still backing him, however, leaving it to an opposition leader to ask the question of the day: "Is there a single reason comprehensible to the world on why Berlusconi should not resign?"