Berlusconi may face charges of paying for perjury


ITALIAN PRIME minister Silvio Berlusconi may soon be facing yet another judicial investigation, charged with having bribed a witness to commit perjury, following the ruling of a court in Naples on Monday.

Asked to rule on a request for the release from prison of Gianpaolo Tarantini (34), a Bari businessman accused of having supplied prostitutes for parties at the prime minister’s private residences, a Naples review court concluded that not only did the prime minister know that the “lady guests” were call girls but also that he had “induced” Tarantini to lie about this to magistrates.

Tarantini, who is under investigation in Bari in relation to the prime minister’s so-called “bunga-bunga” parties, was arrested at the beginning of the month on charges he had extorted over €800,000 from Mr Berlusconi.

Monday’s ruling radically changes that interpretation of events, arguing that the prime minister is not the victim of extortion but rather that he had willingly paid Tarantini for his false testimony: “From the beginning, Tarantini’s line of defence in court was intended to protect the prime minister from any possible damages to his public image, resulting from uncomfortable revelations in the ongoing Bari trial. Furthermore, that line of defence was induced by the promise (tacit or de facto such as the nomination and payment of a defence lawyer by his entourage) on the part of the prime minister that he would look after Tarantini’s situation,” concluded the court.

In particular, Tarantini was “reticent” about the prime minister’s “full and irrefutable awareness” that the women invited to his parties were “call girls”. Mr Berlusconi has always vehemently denied that prostitutes and call girls were invited to his parties.

The prime minister does not deny having paid money to Tarantini but has repeatedly claimed that he did so to “help a family in need”.

The Naples court is less than convinced, stating this explanation “is inevitably contradicted not only by a series of logical considerations but also by a wide variety of facts and circumstances contained in the case evidence”.

The Naples court ordered that Tarantini be released from prison while it also ruled the files concerning the extortion/perjury case be consigned to the public prosecutor’s office in Bari since that is where the original bunga-bunga sex scandal investigation is still ongoing.

At the moment, this latest chapter in Mr Berlusconi’s complex judicial vicissitudes has created confusion over its jurisdiction, with magistrates in Bari, Naples, Lecce and Rome all claiming the right to investigate the so-called “Barigate” sex scandals. Accordingly it is unclear if and when new charges will be brought against him.