More than 30 women, many of them prostitutes, were recruited to Silvio Berlusconi’s private parties at his mansion in Rome, Italian investigators said on Thursday. The new sleaze allegations hit the prime minister as his approval rating plunged to a record new low, with only 24 per cent of Italians saying they trusted the 74-year old billionaire businessman “a lot” or “quite a lot”.Prosecutors presented the results of a two-year investigation into claims that Mr Berlusconi entertained what the Italian press describe as “a harem” of young models, actresses and starlets at his private residence in Rome in 2008 and 2009.
They said that at least 30 women, some of them from South America and Eastern Europe, were invited to the parties and that many “prostituted themselves” with the prime minister in return for cash or other gifts.A well-known Italian actress, Manuela Arcuri, was allegedly promised the chance to host the annual San Remo musical festival in exchange for sleeping with Mr Berlusconi, but refused the offer.The identities of some of the women had been leaked by the Italian press before but this was the first time that investigators presented a definitive list, which they said emerged from a staggering 100,000 intercepted telephone calls between the protagonists.Eight people were placed under investigation for allegedly aiding and abetting prostitution, including Gianpaolo Tarantini, a businessman from the Adriatic port of Bari.
He supplied the women to Mr Berlusconi in the hope of advancing his business interests, prosecutors from Bari said.The group also included Sabina Began, a German-born model who is often described as the “queen bee” of Mr Berlusconi’s circle of female admirers.The eight suspects “knowingly contributed” to “the criminal workings” of the prostitution ring, prosecutors said.Mr Tarantini, 36, and his wife were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of extorting more than £500,000 from the prime minister in return for keeping quiet about the supply of escort girls.Mr Berlusconi, who is not under investigation in the case, has freely admitted holding private parties at his residences in Rome, Milan and Sardinia but has insisted that he did not know that any of his guests were prostitutes.
The list of women included Patrizia D’Addario, a self-confessed call girl who wrote a book about her alleged sexual encounter with the premier; Ioanna Visan, a Romanian showgirl; Francesca Lana, an underwear model; Camille Cordeiro Charao, a men’s magazine model; and Barbara Montereale, Sara Tommasi and Barbara Guerra, all aspiring showgirls.The sharp fall in Mr Berlusconi’s popularity emerged from a poll that was conducted before the new sleaze claims emerged, and was more likely a result of a highly unpopular, 54 billion euro austerity package that the government pushed through on Wednesday, sparking clashes in Rome between riot police and protesters.The number of Italians who have “little” or “no” trust in Berlusconi rose from 60 per cent to 64 per cent, according to the IPR poll commissioned by the centre-Left Repubblica newspaper, one of the premier’s most persistent critics.His approval rating plummeted to 24 per cent, from a high of 62 per cent shortly after he was re-elected in 2008.
Mr Berlusconi’s ability to deal with Italy’s massive debt and economic stagnation has been compromised by a fresh series of gaffes and scandals.It was reported this week that during a telephone conversation with a newspaper editor in July he made derogatory comments about the weight of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.The alleged insult, picked up in a conversation taped by prosecutors, was condemned yesterday by five Italian MEPs from three opposition parties.In a statement, they said it was “intolerable” for a political leader to make vulgar jokes about the physical appearance of any woman, let alone the German chancellor.
It also emerged on Thursday that Mr Berlusconi, who is already involved in three trials for offences ranging from corruption and abuse of office to paying for sex with an alleged under age prostitute, could face yet another trial.A judge in Milan said the prime minister should face criminal charges over his alleged involvement in receiving illegally-obtained wiretaps concerning the acquisition of an Italian bank, which were then published in a newspaper owned by his brother, Paolo Berlusconi. He has already been charged in the case.Mr Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing in all the cases against him and has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of “Left-wing” magistrates intent on forcing him from power. -Telegraph