Berlusconi blackmail suspect arrested

Italian police arrested a businessman on charges of allegedly extorting money from Premier Silvio Berlusconi to ensure the man's cooperation in a probe over recruiting prostitutes to attend wild parties at Berlusconi's home.

Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto were picked up in Rome on this morning, and a third suspect is being sought, police in Naples said. Berlusconi is not under investigation in this case.



Tarantini has admitted he paid a high-end prostitute, Patrizia D'Addario, and other women to attend parties at Berlusconi's residences, but insists the premier didn't know. Tarantini is currently under investigation in Bari for allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution.



Naples Prosecutor Francesco Greco said Berlusconi had paid the Tarantini family's legal and housing costs, with the end result aimed at securing Tarantini's cooperation in the Bari prostitution investigation.



In a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Rome, Greco alleged that the payment was aimed at ensuring that Tarantini enters a plea bargain rather than letting the case go to trial. Such a move would limit the publication of possibly embarrassing telephone intercepts concerning the women who went to Berlusconi's parties.



Greco didn't specify the amount paid, but the Panorama news magazine, which broke news of the investigation last week, said Tarantini received €500,000 ($722,000) and subsequent monthly payments from the premier.



The alleged middleman, Valter Lavitola, is being sought. In a statement, Greco said Lavitola had intervened to facilitate the payments from Berlusconi and had conspired with Tarantini to make sure they kept coming.



Berlusconi is not under investigation and is considered the victim in the case, a Naples policewoman said. The premier has said he didn't feel victimized by Tarantini and says he was just helping a needy family.



"I helped someone and a family with children who found themselves and continue to find themselves in very serious financial difficulty," Berlusconi was quoted as saying by Panorama, a magazine in his media empire. "I didn't do anything illegal, I limited myself to helping a desperate man without asking for anything in exchange. That's how I'm made and nothing will change that."



Berlusconi himself is on trial in Milan for allegedly paying a 17-year-old for sex at some of his parties. Both deny the allegations. The premier is known for handing out generous envelopes of cash and other gifts to women and his friends.



Paying for sex with a prostitute is not a crime in Italy, unless the woman is under 18. Profiting off a prostitute is a crime. Tarantini has admitted he recruited D'Addario and others and paid their travel expenses to come to parties at Berlusconi's residences so he could win favor with the premier in hopes of improving his unrelated business dealings.



He has insisted Berlusconi didn't pay the women and didn't know that he did.



D'Addario says she slept with Berlusconi at his Rome residence and tape recorded the encounter — recordings that were later leaked to an Italian news magazine.



The conservative leader has said he has never paid anyone for sex but has made no apologies for his lifestyle. His penchant for young women prompted his second wife, Veronica Lario, to announce in 2009 that she was divorcing him.



Berlusconi has repeatedly blamed his legal woes on probes by prosecutors he contends are left-leaning sympathizers intent on ruining his political career.



Naples chief prosecutor, Domenico Lepore, told reporters that with the extortion probe Berlusconi won't be able to depict himself as the victim of prosecutors.



"This time, no," Lepore said. "It is we who are defending him" from alleged extortion in a case in which the premier is seen as victim.



As for Berlusconi's claims that he was helping Tarantini and his family with financial difficulties, Lepore expressed puzzlement, adding, if need be, prosecutors will seek to question the premier about the contention.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate