Italian police have arrested a businessman and his wife for a blackmail plot they carried out on the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Police arrested Giampaolo Tarantini, 34, and is wife Angela Devenuto, 32, in Rome on Thursday morning in connection with extorting more than half a million euros from the billionaire prime minister.
Italian police began the extortion investigation following claims that 74-year-old Berlusconi was being blackmailed by the couple about his sex life. It is not believed that Berlusconi is under investigation himself regarding the case.
The couple reportedly took the money from the prime minister to cover up Berlusconi’s alleged use of escort girls, and also to cover up Berlusconi’s knowledge that other women the couple would bring to his infamous “bunga bunga” parties were prostitutes.
According to a statement by the Naples prosecutors’ office, “Serious and consistent indications were found of repeated payments to the Tarantini couple of sums in cash and other benefits of a financial nature by Silvio Berlusconi.”
Mr. Berlusconi has denied knowing that the women attending his parties were paid escorts and Tarantini has said that the prime minister was unaware of their professional backgrounds.
However, the prime minister has admitted to paying the couple, but says he did so voluntarily.
He told Panorama magazine last week that he was not giving Tarantini money to keep his mouth shut, but rather, was giving him money to aid him in a financial struggle.
The prime minister said, “I helped a person and a family with children who were in very serious financial difficulties.”
He added, “I did noting illicit, I was only helping a desperate man without asking anything in exchange.”
Berlusconi is already on trial in Milan for another scandal. He is being charged with having sex with an underage prostitute from Morocco known as “Roxy.” He also is charged with abusing his political power to get the girl out of police custody last year after she was detained by officers on suspicion of theft.
Berlusconi has joked in the past about the numerous sex scandals that have plagued his political career.
He has been reported as saying, “I’m 74-years-old and even tough I may be a bit of a rascal, 33 girls in two months seems to me too much ever for a 30-year-old.”
However, now, it seems as though all of the stress surrounding the billionaire prime minister’s sex life may have gotten to 74-year-old Berlusconi.
In recently leaked phone conversations, Berlusconi had some negative things to say about Italy.
The Italian media leaked phone conversations that took place between the prime minister and a newspaper editor after they were secretly recorded by police as part of the extortion probe against the prime minister.
In the conversations Berlusconi reportedly said, “In a few months I’m going to go away and mind my own fu**ing business.”
He added, “I’m leaving this sh*t country that makes me feel like puking.”
Berlusconi’s term in office is set to end in 2013.