Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to pay his estranged wife Veronica Lario the equivalent of £30m a year to avoid a messy courtroom divorce battle.
The settlement, which was filed at a Milan court before Christmas but only emerged today, is a huge financial commitment even for Italy’s billionaire former prime minister and media mogul.
Ms Lario, a 56-year-old former actress, has been married to the 76-year-old for more than 20 years. She declared her intention to divorce him in 2009 following a series of reports of his extramarital dalliances.
The final straw appears to have been the revelation that Berlusconi attended the 18th birthday party of aspiring underwear model Noemi Letizia, who referred to him as “Daddy”. Voicing her disgust at her husband’s licentious lifestyle, Ms Lario said she could “no longer stay with someone who consorts with minors”.
Ms Lario also criticised Berlusconi’s decision to field several of his favourite starlets as candidates for his PDL party in the 2009 European parliamentary elections, branding the move as “shamelessly trashy”.
The stakes were raised in November 2009 when Ms Lario let it be known that she was on the verge of filing for a separazione con addebito, the first official step towards a divorce in which she would claim that her husband was to blame for the failed marriage.
This would have led to an acrimonious courtroom battle that Berlusconi would have been keen to avoid, fearing that Ms Lario’s lawyers would dwell mercilessly on the nature of his numerous relationships with young stars and call girls, and add considerably to his legal headaches. Media commentators have said no one is better placed than Ms Lario to point out the skeletons in Berlusconi’s closet.
Berlusconi, who has said he may run in the February general election, is currently facing criminal charges in the “Rubygate” trial in which he charged with having sex with an underage prostitute, Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug, and abusing his power of office to cover up the act. In his defence, his lawyers have sought to dismiss claims that the tycoon enjoyed regular sex parties at his Arcore mansion near Milan. A verdict in this case is expected by the end of February next year. In a separate trial in October, Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud.
According to the divorce deal filed by the Milan court, Ms Lario will receive €100,000 (£82,000) per day, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported. But Mr Berlusconi will keep possession of all his business interests as well as the €78m Villa Belvedere in Macherio near Milan, where Ms Lario brought up the couple’s three children – Barbara, 28, Eleonora, 26, and Luigi, 24.