Italy Magazine Revives Berlusconi Scandal

An Italian newsweekly and newspaper have released
tape recordings of what they say was the night Silvio Berlusconi
spent with a prostitute in which the premier is purportedly heard
asking her to wait for him in bed while he showers.

Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, disputed the veracity of
the tapes, saying Monday they were "without any merit, completely
improbable and the fruit of invention."

The escort, Patrizia D'Addario, has said she taped her
encounters with Berlusconi as well as the parties he threw for
young women at his residences - which have become the source of
major scandal for the 72-year-old leader.

Berlusconi has denied he ever paid anyone for sex, and has
called the allegations "trash" meant to smear him. Polls show the
months-long scandal has hardly dented Berlusconi's popularity - a
sign of his remarkable political resilience and Italians'
indifference to the sexual foibles of the political class.

The left-leaning L'Espresso newsweekly and La Repubblica daily
put the recordings on their Web sites Monday. The magazine is the
flagship of the L'Espresso SpA publishing empire that also includes
La Repubblica, which has spearheaded coverage of the scandal. They
didn't say how they obtained the tapes, saying only that the
recordings were made during and after two parties the conservative
premier threw last year at his Roman palazzo which D'Addario
attended.

In one recording, a voice identified by L'Espresso and La
Repubblica as Berlusconi's is heard telling D'Addario about a book
he designed. According to the reports, he interrupts himself and
says: "I'm going to take a shower as well ... and then will you
wait for me in the big bed if you finish first?"

D'Addario has said the encounter took place Nov. 4 - and that
Berlusconi skipped a party for the U.S. election to spend the night
with her. She says she returned in the morning to her central Rome
hotel.

The tapes also feature an alleged phone call between Berlusconi
and D'Addario the day after in which the premier marvels at how he
was able to get through a speech on such little sleep, L'Espresso
and La Repubblica said.

D'Addario responds that she too wasn't tired but had lost her
voice, the account said.

"How come?" Berlusconi asks, according to the tapes on the Web
sites. "We didn't scream."

A spokesman for Berlusconi's party, Daniele Capezzone, didn't
deny the authenticity of the recordings. He said L'Espresso was
merely trying to revive an "already dead" media scandal.

D'Addario has said she went public with her story, and the
contents of the recordings, saying Berlusconi had reneged on a
promise to help her out with a real estate problem she was having.

D'Addario, who has confirmed she is a high-end prostitute, has
turned the recordings over to prosecutors in the southern city of
Bari as part of an investigation into a local businessman accused
of recruiting and paying young women to attend Berlusconi's
parties.

The businessman, Giampaolo Tarantini, has apologized to
Berlusconi for causing scandal, saying he merely brought the women
to Berlusconi's fetes to show off and only reimbursed them for
their travel expenses.

Ghedini, Berlusconi's lawyer, said in a statement to the ANSA
news agency that the tapes were never supposed to have been
released publicly because they were part of an ongoing
investigation into Tarantini. As a result of the leak, he warned
that he would pursue legal action against anyone who republishes
the tapes' contents.

"The veracity and lawfulness of the declared recordings have
already been contested," he said, according to ANSA.

L'Espresso said the tapes proved that D'Addario's claims,
reported in most major Italian newspapers in recent months, were
true. Berlusconi has said he doesn't recognize D'Addario's name or
face.

Berlusconi hasn't been implicated in the investigation, and
shows no signs of suffering politically for the revelations. His
conservative allies won big in European Parliament elections after
the scandal broke, and a poll published June 28 showed his
popularity had only dipped two statistically insignificant
percentage points - from 51 percent to 49 percent. The three-time
premier, who has survived several corruption investigations, has
insisted "Italians want me this way."

Berlusconi's wife, however, cited his fondness for young
beautiful women in announcing a few months ago that she was
divorcing him.

The recordings also include phone calls between D'Addario and
Tarantini, including one made as D'Addario returned to her hotel
the morning after she allegedly spent the night with Berlusconi.

"We didn't get any sleep," she tells Tarantini, according to
L'Espresso, adding the premier was very "affectionate."

She tells him there was no envelope of cash from Berlusconi, as
Tarantini had apparently promised. But she says instead she got a
promise that the premier would send some aides to help her deal
with some problems she was having in getting a bed and breakfast
built in Bari, L'Espresso and La Repubblica said.


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