La Dolce Vita: The Prince, the Spokesman and the Starlet

By Krista Kjellman

Jun 29, 2006 9:56am

A 69-year-old prince, a prominent political spokesman, television starlets, prostitutes, fixed gaming machines and tapped phone conversations are all part of a spicy scandal lighting up the Italian press.  According to Italian press reports that cite case files, Prince Victor Emmanuel, the son of Italy’s last king, has been released from jail and is now under house arrest for allegedly being part of a ring involved in a corruption scam at a casino in Campione d’Italia, an Italian enclave situated in southern Switzerland.  The prince, who has denied all wrongdoing, is accused of providing the resort casino with prostitutes and of obtaining licenses and supply contracts for rigged gambling machines.  According to a court statement explaining the decision to grant him house arrest, Prince Victor Emmanuel has agreed to provide "ample cooperation" to prosecutors. Also placed under house arrest in connection with the casino scam  was Salvatore Sottile, a spokesman for Gianfranco Fini, leader of the far-right National Alliance party and foreign minister in the last government. Sottile, whose house arrest was lifted as of yesterday afternoon, is accused of acting as an intermediary in the business involving the gambling machines.  But, according to Italian press reports, which quote leaked transcripts of Sottile’s phone conversations, he is also suspected of securing jobs at the state broadcasting station RAI for aspiring television actresses in return for sexual favors.    "She is Sicilian, so she isn’t going to talk," Sottile is quoted as saying in one transcript to a television executive as they discussed a certain actress.  Sottile is charged with sexual extortion and graft although at least one of the implicated starlets, Elisabetta Gregoraci, who has appeared on prime-time game shows, has recanted previous statements that she had "sexual relations" with the spokesman.  Sottile has denied any wrongdoing in regards to the casino scam.  As for the charges filed against him, Sottile has told prosecutors that his boasts about sexual prowess were solely "vanity and bravado between men." The news of the Prince’s arrest and involvement in such a scandal had caused such a stir at the time it was first reported that it overshadowed Italy’s advancement to the second round at the World Cup.  An Italian embassy spokesperson said the Italian government has no official comment on the investigations as both Prince Victor Emmanuel and spokesman Salvatore Sottile are private citizens.

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