Businessman Blackmailed Berlusconi: Cops

Italian PM ready to leave his 'shitty' country
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 2, 2011 10:44 AM CDT
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The “bunga bunga” fallout continues: Police nabbed an Italian businessman for allegedly blackmailing Silvio Berlusconi in the sex scandal that’s clouded his tenure as prime minister. Giampaolo Tarantini has acknowledged recruiting women for Berlusconi’s alleged sex parties, but he’s maintained that the PM didn’t know that some were escorts. Police say Tarantini was paid almost $750,000 to protect Berlusconi and to seek a fast-track trial that would reveal as little as possible about the parties.

The arrest of Tarantini and his wife, Angela Devenuto, comes after investigators listened in on 50 phone calls, the Telegraph reports. Berlusconi says he paid Tarantini simply out of the goodness of his heart. “I helped a person and a family with children who found themselves, and still find themselves, in grave economic difficulties,” he told a magazine last week. “I did nothing wrong, I simply helped a desperate man, asking nothing in return. That’s the kind of person I am and nothing will ever change that.” However, phone transcripts paint a different picture: In one, Berlusconi pledged to leave the “shitty” country he leads, the Guardian reports.

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