An Italian entrepreneur and an actress nicknamed the “Queen Bee” of Silvio Berlusconi’s female entourage were found guilty on Friday of recruiting prostitutes for alleged sex parties at the then prime minister’s mansions in Rome and Milan.
Gianpaolo Tarantini, who wanted to curry favour with the billionaire businessman in the hope of winning lucrative contracts and with a view to forging a career in politics, was sentenced to seven years and 10 months in prison.
Sabina Began, a German model and actress living in Italy who claimed in court this week that she had been in love with Mr Berlusconi, was sentenced to 16 months behind bars.
Two businessmen involved in the scandal, Peter Faraone and Massimiliano Verdoscia, were also found guilty and sentenced to between two to three years.
All four were accused of procuring prostitutes and inducing women into prostitution at the trial in Bari, in the southern region of Puglia, Mr Tarantini’s home town.
During the trial, which started nearly two years ago, they were accused of recruiting 26 glamorous young models, escorts and showgirls to attend parties at the politician’s luxury homes – Palazzo Grazioli in Rome and a large villa at Arcore, outside Milan.
The parties, which Mr Berlusconi has always insisted were “elegant dinners” where he sang and played the piano to the delight of his guests, were held in 2008 and 2009.
They were organised shortly after he had been left by Veronica Lario, his wife of 20 years, after she accused him of chasing young women.
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Francesca Lana and Letizia Filippi, two glamour models who were also on trial on the same charges, were acquitted by the court, with the judges ruling that there was no evidence that they were involved in the prostitution ring.
Mr Berlusconi has always claimed that he has never paid for sex and that he had no idea any of the women were prostitutes.
He was not accused of any crime but the court announced that it was forwarding the trial documents to prosecutors to determine whether he had tried to obstruct justice by paying some of the starlets to give favourable testimony.
The convictions are an embarrassment for him at a time when he is trying to relaunch his political career and challenge the centre-Left government of Matteo Renzi.
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The scandal broke after one of the women who attended the parties,Patrizia D’Addario, claimed that she had been paid to have sex with the prime minister.
The alleged encounter took place on a huge bed that was a gift to the media mogul from his friend Vladimir Putin, she said.
She wrote a book about her alleged fling with Mr Berlusconi called “Prime Minister, Take Your Pleasure”, a reference to a scene in a Federico Fellini film, Amarcord, in which a prostitute climbs into bed and invites an Italian aristocrat to have his way with her.
She said he changed into white silk pyjamas and a dressing gown after asking her to spend the night with him at the end of a lavish party at his palatial residence.
Ms D’Addario said she felt as though she had entered a “harem” when she attended the soirée, with starlets competing for the favours of the prime minister, whom she described as the only man in the room “with the right to copulate”.
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“Having been an escort I thought I’d seen a fair few things, but this I’d never seen, 20 women for one man.
“Normally in an orgy you have roughly the same number of men and women, otherwise people get upset,” she wrote in the book.
“But here the other men had no say. There was just one man with the right to copulate and that was the prime minister.”
None of the defendants were behind bars last night. They will remain at liberty pending an exhaustive appeals process that could last for several years.