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This is how Italy functions, says call girl

August 6, 2009

By Guy Dinmore in Bari, August 6, 2009

DSC_0192_800Patrizia D’Addario, the 42-year-old escort who claims to have spent the night of the US elections last November with Silvio Berlusconi, has become entangled in what she calls the web of the “system” where businessmen pay women like her to entertain politicians.

“The system is like that. All of Italy functions like this,” Ms D’Addario told the Financial Times in her hometown of Bari on the Adriatic coast. “I had the same experience with other businessmen. Other businessmen asked me to charm politicians,” she said.

Speaking in the offices of her lawyer, Maria Pia Vigilante, she declined to give names or details. But asked if the politicians were from the centre-left parties or the right, she said it was the “same thing”.

The scandal that has gripped Italy for nearly two months and shaken the centre-right coalition government might not have come to light if it had not been for the strong character of the woman involved — and the fact that she had secretly recorded her conversations with the prime minister that night in Villa Grazioli, his Rome residence.

Ms D’Addario became afraid after her flat was burgled on May 18. Strangely, instead of stealing her expensive television set, she says unknown intruders took all her dresses and even her underwear, as well as music Cds and photographs given to her by the 72-year-old prime minister.
She believes they were looking for the recordings which she says she had had spoken about over the telephone to an acquaintance.
Her alarm grew on May 31 when she was about to attend a press conference attended by Mr Berlusconi in Bari on May 31 where she was to appear as a candidate in local elections for a regional party called “Puglia Prima di Tutto” — (Puglia First of All) which is allied to the prime minister’s centre-right People of Liberty.
The prime minister’s security men, who had known her from her visit to Rome, barred her from attending.
Giampaolo Tarantini, a Bari businessman who runs a prosthetics company and had introduced her to the prime minister last year , had first put her forward — she says with the approval of the prime minister — as a candidate for the European elections in early June. “I went with my CV,” she said.
But her possible future as a Euro MP had been derailed when Veronica Lario — Mr Berlusconi’s actress wife — went public on May 3 in denouncing her husband over his friendship with an 18-year-old would-be model in Naples and his habit of promoting showgirls as politicians.
As a result, Ms D’Addario was demoted to local elections but says she pulled out of the campaign when she was excluded from the press conference. Barbara Monreale, another “hostess” who attended Mr Berlusconi’s party in Rome, continued as a local candidate for the same party.
In a further twist, Ms D’Addario was then called to answer questions from a public prosecutor in Bari who was investigating Mr Tarantini on suspicion of corruption in securing public health sector contracts. Intercepts of his telephone conversations led to a second line of inquiry into whether he had procured prostitutes for the prime minister.
Ms D’Addario, saying “I wanted to protect myself”, said she went public with her side of the story, giving an interview to Corriere della Sera, Italy’s main centrist newspaper, which was published on June 17. She has not been out of the news since, seizing the headlines last month when she shared her secret recordings with the centre-left daily, la Repubblica, which has been at the forefront of uncovering the scandal.
A slight figure with long blonde hair, wearing only a simple cross for jewellery, Ms D’Addario was also driven to tell her tale because she says Mr Berlusconi broke a promise to her.
Working the Italian “system” of seeking high-level intervention to resolve insurmountable local obstacles, the escort on her first of two encounters with the prime minister, had told him of her “problem“ in trying to finish the construction of a local property.
Setbacks, complicated by local officials, had led her father to commit suicide, she says, leaving her alone as a single mother to fend for her daughter and mother. Such circumstances, she explains, led her to find work as an escort.
“Italy is such a country where simple things are so complicated.
I struggle, I struggle. And it stops there at the local level… He (Berlusconi) promised to speed up the project by sending two people but they never came,” she said.
Ms D’Addario, who began the interview cautiously, often deferring to her lawyer for advice, grew in confidence as she described the weight of a “system” where meritocracy is irrelevant and what matters is one’s connections with people in power.
She does not appear confident that much will change.
“I am the only one who told the truth,” she says, recalling that she was one of about a score of women, including other escorts, who attended Mr Berlusconi‘s private party on the night when most people in Italy were glued to their televisions awaiting the outcome of Barack Obama‘s election.
“If others tell the truth perhaps there is hope of the system changing. . If no one speaks who will change the system?” she asked.
Investigations into Mr Tarantini continue. He has denied any wrong-doing. In media interviews, he has insisted he only paid escorts their expenses. A separate and wider investigation in Bari is focusing on the suspected corruption of local centre-left politicians involved in awarding health service contracts to other businessmen.
When the call-girl scandal first broke, Mr Berlusconi called it falsehoods fabricated by his political rivals with their allies in the Italian and foreign media. In a later interview with Chi, a magazine he owns, he said he could not remember Ms D’Addario’s name or face and suggested she had been rewarded to make such allegations. She denies this.
Last month, after the recordings and transcripts were posted on the internet — in which the prime minister or someone like him is heard telling her to wait for him in twhat he calls “Putin’s bed” — Mr Berlusconi shrugged off the scandal saying “I am not a saint.”
Italy this week has retired for the summer break. Mr Berlusconi has returned to his villa in Sardinia — the centre of other allegations involving parties and call-girls captured by a freelance photographer who is being sued by the prime minister.
Opinion polls indicate that the scandals have damaged Mr Berlusconi’s standing among voters, mainly women and Catholics. But for the majority of Italians, who understand the “system” and feel helpless to do anything about it, the drip-drip of revelations is, at least for the moment, remains a summer distraction.

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