Italian linked to Berlusconi 'scandal' arrested

The businessman who is said to have supplied call girls for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's notorious parties in Rome and Sardinia has been arrested on drugs charges.

Giampaolo Tarantini, 35, was seized at Bari airport, in south east Italy, and held on suspicion of drug possession and trafficking.

"Gianpolo Tarantini has been arrested for drug-trafficking but also because of a risk he might flee, and because he could have tampered with evidence," Antonio Laudati, prosecutor in Bari told journalists.

As a key figure in the sex scandals engulfing Berlusconi, Taranti has rarely been out of the headlines in the past few months.

Tarantini and his brother had been under investigation for suspected corruption in obtaining contracts. Tapping of their telephones aroused suspicion of drug dealing and also inciting prostitution.

Bugging of Tarantini's telephone also revealed him offering money to escort girls to spend the night at Berlusconi's residences in Rome and Sardinia.

Call-girl Patrizia D'Addario claims to have spent nights with Berlusconi on two occasions on the promise of earning £1,800 for each visit and then recorded their conversations.

On September 9 the Corriere della Sera newspaper claimed to have seen prosecution evidence that Tarantini brought around 30 prostitutes to 18 parties in Berlusconi's homes in Rome and Sardinia between September 2008 and January 2009.

Berlusconi has denied ever paying for sex, however, saying that "someone gave a very precise and extremely well paid mission to this Ms D'Addario".

Tarantini has denied supplying drugs to the Prime Minister's parties. Investigators have also indicated there is no intention to press criminal charges against the Prime Minister.

But the Bari "entrepreneur" is also being investigated on suspicion of supplying prostitutes to centre-Left politicians in Bari and the Puglia region in connection with corrupt contracts to supply health equipment to the region's hospitals.