THE businessman who allegedly supplied Silvio Berlusconi with women for his parties in Rome and Sardinia has been arrested on charges of blackmailing the Italian premier.
Giampaolo Tarantini (34) and his wife Angela Devenuto (32) were detained in Rome yesterday morning "for extorting money from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi", police said.
Mr Berlusconi is reported to have paid €500,000 to the businessman, followed by several smaller payments.
Mr Berlusconi is not under investigation and has denied being blackmailed by Mr Tarantini. However, the arrest sees an unwelcome return of the spotlight on the sex scandals that have dogged him for years.
Mr Tarantini has said he recruited about 30 women who were paid to attend 18 of Mr Berlusconi's parties between September 2008 and January 2009. He said the women were to provide sexual favours "if the need arose".
According to prosecutors, Mr Tarantini demanded money in exchange for backing the premier's assertion he did not know the women were being paid.
Francesco Greco, a Naples prosecutor, also alleges that Mr Berlusconi's payments were designed to ensure that Mr Tarantini entered a plea bargain to prevent a lengthy trial over charges he faced of procuring prostitutes.
This would limit the embarrassing details concerning the premier's parties that would have been examined in court.
Patrizia D'Addario, one of the women recruited by Mr Tarantini, who saw Mr Berlusconi on two occasions on the promise of earning €2,000 per visit, recorded their pillow talk, which found its way into the newspapers.
She also appeared on TV to dismiss Mr Berlusconi's claims that he was unaware she was a prostitute when they slept together at his Rome residence.
Mr Berlusconi has insisted Mr Tarantini did not extort money from him. "I helped someone and a family with children who found themselves and continue to find themselves in very serious financial difficulty," he said.
In another embarrassment, Mr Berlusconi has been caught saying he wants to leave Italy, according to a leaked phone call published by Italian media.
"I couldn't give a f**k. In a few months I'm going to go away and mind my own f***ing business. I'm leaving this s**t country," Mr Berlusconi was quoted as saying
The conversation is said to have occurred on July 13 between Mr Berlusconi and online newspaper editor Valter Lavitola, who is wanted in the context of the blackmail inquiry. (© Independent News Service)