Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was embroiled in fresh controversy Wednesday as prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations that showgirls were paid to attend parties at his villa in Sardinia and his residence in Rome.
ANSA, the Italian news agency, confirmed that the prosecutor’s office in Bari in southern Italy was seeking to establish whether payments to women to attend "private residences in Rome and Sardinia" had involved "induction into prostitution."
Berlusconi had hoped to repair his battered image by portraying himself as an international statesman. On Monday he met President Obama in Washington before the G8 summit he is hosting in the city of L’Aquila next month.
However, no sooner had he returned to Italy than fresh allegations emerged about his private life.
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s most authoritative newspaper, reported on an investigation into alleged corruption involving contracts for the supply of equipment to hospitals in the Bari area by Tecnohospital, owned by two brothers, Giampaolo and Claudio Tarantini. Investigators said that in tapped telephone conversations Giampaolo Tarantini had referred to payments to women to attend parties given by associates, including Berlusconi. Reports said Tarantini owned a villa at Porto Rotondo on the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, close to Berlusconi’s seaside estate, and had known him "for some years."
The newspaper also interviewed Patrizia D’Addario, a former model and television showgirl from Bari. She had been asked to attend a party at Palazzo Grazioli, Berlusconi’s residence in Rome, last Ocober by someone she referred to as "Giampaolo."
"I said they would have to pay me, and we agreed on €2,000 ($2,790)," she said.
Tarantini refused to comment. Nicola Quaranta, his lawyer, told ANSA: "We know absolutely nothing about the existence of an investigation into alleged induction into prostitution, nor has the prosecutor’s office notified us of any such investigation."
Berlusconi, already reeling from his highly public divorce battle, was outraged by the new reports: "Once again they fill the newspapers with rubbish and falsehoods. I will certainly not allow this aggression to affect me, and I will continue to work as ever for the good of this country," he said.