Blackmailing paparazzo turns fugitive to escape jail term

 

Milan

Italy’s most notorious paparazzo, whose five-year prison sentence for blackmailing French football star David Trézéguet was confirmed by the Supreme Court last week, has fled the authorities.

Fabrizio Corona, 38, was first arrested in 2007 for extortion and subsequently gained convictions for fraudulent bankruptcy, tax fraud and handling counterfeit money.

Inter Milan footballers, actors, politicians and even Barbara Berlusconi, the daughter of the ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, were among his victims.

Corona had always avoided the heavy sentence demanded by prosecutors, until Friday, when the Supreme Court of Cassation declared that he should be jailed for five years for demanding €25,000 (£21,000) from Trézéguet, who is married with two children, to prevent pictures showing the footballer leaving a nightclub in the company of a young woman from being published.

Marcello Maddalena, the chief prosecutor of Turin, where Corona was originally convicted for blackmailing the French striker, said the paparazzo was now a fugitive from the law. He was last seen in Milan on Friday morning.

Following the Supreme Court verdict on Friday evening, he failed to return home by his 9pm curfew, prompting speculation that he had fled abroad.

The political-gossip site Dagospia reported unnamed paparazzi as saying they were sure he had fled abroad, possibly to Russia.

Corona’s contemptuous appearances at multiple appeal hearings came to symbolise the slow speed and ineffectiveness of the Italian court system.

He claimed he never blackmailed anyone, but merely gave celebrities the chance to buy compromising photos at the rates at which he would have sold them to magazines. Police wiretaps, however, recorded him saying to his former wife: “Yes, it’s true, I ruin lives… I don’t even feel guilty any more.”

Corona’s family made a public  appeal for him to hand himself in to the authorities.

His younger brother Federico said: “Fabrizio, we are devastated. Despite your inability to think straight at the moment, wherever you are we’re asking you to come back as soon as possible and hand yourself in.”

His ex-wife, Nina Moric, was less sympathetic. “This time, I hope that Fabrizio suffers in prison, because only suffering and reflection will allow him to examine his conscience,” she said.

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