Berlusconi aide: Mobsters held me hostage for €35m
Accountant forced to call former PM by armed men who claimed to have documents for sale
Silvio Berlusconi's declining political fortunes and never-ending legal woes were yesterday overshadowed by claims that one of his inner circle had been held hostage in a bid to extract €35m from the ex-premier.
The 76-year-old billionaire's trusted accountant, Giuseppe Spinelli, whose job it was to hand envelopes stuffed with cash to young women attending the tycoon's notorious adult parties, has told police that six armed men kept him and his wife captive in their home on 15 October.
Police announced yesterday that three Albanians and three Italians had been arrested in connection with the incident. The ringleader was named as Francesco Leone, a 51-year-old convicted criminal with links to the Sacra Corona Unita – the Puglian mafia.
Mr Spinelli, 71, said the masked men forced him to call Berlusconi to communicate their intention to sell the mogul documents that could extricate his Fininvest holding company from a €560m compensation payment it owes a rival firm.
The head of Milan's anti-mafia police squad Alessandro Giuliano, said: "According to the account of Spinelli, while he was returning home on the 15 October, he was threatened by hooded men on his door step. He was then held captive in his home for the whole night, until nine the next morning when he was made to make a direct phone call to Berlusconi."
But within hours of recounting Mr Spinelli's version of events, the Italian press began to ponder the stranger aspects of the case. It was unclear why Mr Spinelli waited 36 hours after his captors had gone before calling the police or why he was then whisked away by Berlusconi's personal bodyguards. It was reported yesterday that he has since been living in a secret location.
Niccolo Ghedini, Berlusconi's lawyer, said he was confident the documents brandished by the bandits were false: "We never saw them, but judging from what they were claiming, I would say we're talking about a complete bluff," he said.
Mr Spinelli was told by his captors that the evidence could reverse the fortunes of Berlusconi's business empire as it appeals against the giant compensation payment it was ordered to pay the CIR company, owned by the rival mogul Carlo de Benedetti.
Fininvest wrestled control of the Mondadori publishing house from Mr De Benedetti in 1991, in a takeover battle settled in a Rome courtroom. But in 2007 a court in Milan found Berlusconi's former lawyer and close ally Cesare Previti had bribed one of the two Rome judges to rule in favour of Fininvest. Berlusconi himself was cleared of responsibility.
A verdict in the "Rubygate" case, in which Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with an underage girl and of abusing his office to cover up the crime, is expected in February next year.
- 1 Windows 10: man updates PC, wakes up to find porn slideshow on repeat
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 4 Supermodel Gisele Bundchen mocked for wearing a burka to avoid being seen visiting plastic surgeon in Paris
- 5 Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen mocked for wearing a burka to avoid being seen visiting plastic surgeon in Paris
Bulletproof armadillo puts Texas man in hospital after shot bounces off hard shell
'Rowdy' Roddy Piper dies: Wrestling legend dies aged 61, according to reports
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...