Call girl scandal deepens for Italy's Berlusconi

22nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

New audio clip revealed Tuesday of sex scandals surrounding Berlusconi and call girl declines his approval rating in Italy

Rome – A scandal linking Italy's Silvio Berlusconi to a call girl deepened Tuesday with the posting of a new audio clip seemingly proving the liaison, as the flamboyant prime minister's approval rating sank.

In the clip, the second in as many days to emerge on the website of the left-leaning weekly L'Espresso, call girl Patrizia D'Addario and the man who allegedly paid her to sleep with Berlusconi apparently discuss the terms of the encounter.

The entrepreneur, Gianpaolo Tarantini, purportedly tells D'Addario that Berlusconi, 72, "is not taking you as a call girl ... he's taking you as a friend of mine that I brought along."

Berlusconi, a renowned playboy and bon vivant, has rebuffed allegations of paying for sex, saying he prefers the "pleasure of conquest."

Both posts by L'Espresso followed an opinion survey that registered a four-point drop in the billionaire premier's approval rating, putting him below the 50 percent mark for the first time since his election in April 2008.

The poll by the IPR institute for the daily La Repubblica -- part of L'Espresso's media group – gave Berlusconi a 49 percent approval rating, the lowest since he swept back to power for a third time since 1994.

Berlusconi's successful hosting of the Group of Eight summit this month in the earthquake-hit city of L'Aquila "may have slowed a haemorrhage that could have been much worse," La Repubblica said.

Political scientist Marc Lazar said voters were beginning to chafe at the scandals, notably "practising Catholics, country people and the elderly."

In an interview with AFP, Lazar said: "Berlusconi is in trouble for not answering questions that have been asked of him."

La Repubblica has led calls for the prime minister to answer a set of questions, published daily since early May, over allegations concerning his sex life.

Notably, Berlusconi has been pressed to explain his relationship with aspiring model Noemi Letizia after his attendance at her 18th birthday party prompted his wife to file for divorce.

That scandal was compounded when allegations emerged that he slept with call girls, as well as compromising photos taken at Berlusconi's luxury villa in Sardinia.

The prime minister has dismissed the allegations as "all lies" and politically motivated.

D'Addario, who is at the centre of a corruption investigation into Tarantini, has told the Italian media that she was promised 2,000 euros (2,800 dollars) for each of two overnight stays with Berlusconi.

The new audio clip refers to a 1,000-euro payment up front followed by as much again (USD 1,420) if she stayed the night.

L'Espresso posted an audio clip on its website Monday of a supposed exchange between Berlusconi and D'Addario in which he allegedly asks her to wait for him in "the big bed" while he took a shower.

The prime minister's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini scoffed at the recording, calling it "totally implausible."

On Tuesday, reacting to the new clip, Ghedini said "whole conversations can be assembled (using) simple technical operations."

D'Addario claims to have also snapped pictures at the media tycoon's Rome residence with her mobile phone.

She says she handed the recordings over to the investigation, which does not directly implicate Berlusconi.

Meanwhile, Lazar, describing the Italian left as "in tatters," told AFP: "The beast is wounded but not dead."

Some say the scandals help deflect attention from Italy's economic woes as dire figures presage an autumn of discontent.

Italy's gross domestic product is projected to shrink by 5.2 percent this year after a contraction of 1.0 percent in 2008.

Only Germany is expected to see a worse year within the European Union.

Gina Doggett / AFP / Expatica

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