The scandal surrounding Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over his extramarital affairs just got sleazier. Berlusconi, 72, has hit the headlines again, this time with allegations made by a showgirl claiming she and a number of other women were paid by the prime minister to attend his private parties.
Splashed across the front page of the Italian newspaper Corierre Della Sera, 42-year-old Patrizia D'Addario claims she has pictures allegedly showing Berlusconi's bedroom as well as secretly recorded video and audio tapes of their encounters. Some of the material D'Addario filmed allegedly shows a bedroom with a framed photograph of his estranged wife Veronica Lario.
The former model has turned in these tapes and Italian police are now verifying their authenticity. The other women embroiled in this claim have also been interviewed by prosecutors to determine whether they were to attend the prime minister's parties.
Berlusconi's office has dismissed the claims.
It's the latest in a series of allegations surrounding Berlusconi's "friendships" with various women, including most recently, teenaged model Noemi Letizia.
Letizia's name first appeared in the Italian press when Berlusconi's wife sent an open letter to an Italian newspaper criticizing her husband's choice of female candidates for the upcoming European elections as unqualified. She also bitterly complained that he had attended Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples while he never bothered to attend those of his own children. Lario called her husband "unwell" and implied that his attraction to beautiful younger women was causing him to make bad decisions.
The battle of the Berlusconis played out in the press and Lario asked for a divorce. Initially in interviews conducted by ABC News with Rome residents, most Italians shrugged off the divorce and the titillating details as a private matter. But Berlusconi's original explanation that he went to the party because he happened to be in Naples that evening and had a spare hour or so has been disputed by the Italian press after interviews with people involved.
Berlusconi's Version Is Being Challenged
The prime minister's relationship to Letizia's father, Elio Letizia, described as a friendship, is also in dispute, as is the father's supposed membership of Berlusconi's People's Freedom Party.
This has raised doubts about why Berlusconi would have visited on the night of Letizia's 18th birthday party to discuss the candidates for the upcoming elections, which the original explanation that was given in response to Lario's complaint. Elio Letizia said in later interviews that Berlusconi first met his daughter when she was 10 years old. He said that Berlusconi had sent a hand-written letter of condolence when their son was killed in a car accident eight years ago and that they have stayed in touch since.
Media reports have suggested a different scenario. One Italian article claims that a confidant of the prime minister who works for Berlusconi's vast media empire, Mediaset, showed Noemi Letizia's modeling portfolio to Berlusconi during a meeting. According to the press reports, Berlusconi, after seeing the photos, asked that a meeting be arranged between the two.
Now Italian press reports are full of alleged meetings between the pair, including an invitation for her to attend his New Year's Eve party with other young girls, all carried to the villa in Sardinia on his private jet, visits to his government offices, and frequent telephone calls. Noemi Letizia has not been seen or heard from in public since the story exploded, but did say in an early interview that she called him "Papi" (Grandpa) and that they spoke often.
Letizia's former boyfriend, Gino Flamino, told newspapers that he was in the room on numerous occasions when Berlusconi had telephoned, long before her 18th birthday and that many meetings between the two had been arranged, including the New Year's party at Berlusconi's home in Sardinia. Flamino is quoted as saying that Berlusconi repeatedly called Letizia on her cell phone, at first without introducing himself, asking her about her school results and calling her "an angel."
A large number of newspapers and Italian television stations are owned by Berlusconi, and as head of the government he controls the state channels he doesn't own. Even so, whispers about his alleged affairs with younger women refuse to die down, with the latest story about D'Addario's video recordings adding further fuel to the fire.