Sat, Jun 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Silvio Berlusconi defiant as escort scandal grows

THE GUARDIAN , Rome

Italian police have launched an investigation into the torching of a car belonging to a model who alleged she was paid to attend a party with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The suspected arson attack on Thursday morning came as a second woman, Patrizia D’Addario, a former model and escort who claims she spent a night with Berlusconi at his Rome residence, said a break-in at her house could be connected to threats she made to go public about the night.

The women and 17 others have reportedly been questioned by Bari prosecutors who suspect a local businessman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, of “abetting prostitution” by paying women to attend parties, including those held by Berlusconi.

Barbara Montereale’s Honda Jazz was doused with gas and set alight in the southern city of Bari after she alleged that she had been paid 1,000 euros (US$1,400) by Tarantini to attend a party at Berlusconi’s holiday home in Sardinia.

Montereale also claimed that D’Addario had told her she had sex with Berlusconi in November, after a dinner at his Rome residence.

D’Addario declined to confirm that in an interview with La Repubblica on Thursday, but did say that Berlusconi had “openly caressed” her on a sofa in front of a bodyguard. She also said she attended two parties at his Rome residence, including one at which about 20 women flocked around him as if they were at a “harem.”

D’Addario said she was not paid for spending the night with Berlusconi, but secured a promise from him to help win her a building permit for a hotel in Bari.

When that help was not forthcoming, D’Addario said she felt betrayed and told a friend about secret audio tapes she had made during her night with Berlusconi. A few days later, she said, a computer, CDs, underwear and the Versace dress she wore that night were stolen from her home.

“I was frightened, then began to understand,” she said.

Berlusconi said this week he had never paid for sex, preferring the pleasure of conquest. He said he did not recall D’Addario.

“I didn’t know her name and didn’t remember her face,” he said.

Berlusconi’s wife announced she would divorce him last month, accusing him of “frequenting minors” after he attended the 18th birthday party of aspiring model Noemi Letizia.

On Thursday Berlusconi said: “I will not change. The Italians want me like this.”

His governing coalition performed well in this month’s EU and local elections, but as new allegations emerge, he has faced a growing groundswell of Catholic objections to his lifestyle. This week, Italy’s most popular Catholic magazine said he had “passed the limits of decency.”

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