Italy: PM call girl 'fixer' placed under house arrest

Bari, 21 Sept. (AKI) - Giampaolo Tarantini, the businessman at the centre of the sex scandal surrounding Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been placed under house arrest in the southern city of Bari. Tarantini was detained by Italian tax police at Bari airport on Friday in relation to alleged drug trafficking.

Tarantini's lawyer Nicola Quaranta told journalists on Monday that prosecutor Vito Fanizzi decided to release Tarantini from jail "because he did not believe Tarantini was likely to flee the country or to tamper with evidence".

Police last Friday detained Tarantini on suspicion of trafficking cocaine and said there was a serious danger he would flee the country.

The prosecutor who ordered Tarantini's arrest, Giuseppe Scelsi said Tarantini had lied about the quantity of drugs he supplied to parties thrown on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda. The true figure was half a kilo of cocaine, not 50-70 grammes as he had earlier claimed.

Quaranta was speaking on Monday after prosecutors questioned his client in a local prison in Bari.

Tarantini is also under investigation for abetting prostitution, suspected corruption and for allegedly supplying cocaine to parties held at Berlusconi's luxurious Sardinian villa.

The prosecutor who ordered Tarantini's arrest on Friday, Giuseppe Scelsi, said Tarantini had lied about the quantity of drugs he supplied to parties on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda in the summer of 2008. The true amount was 500 grammes of cocaine, not 50-70 grammes as Taraintini had earlier claimed, Scelsi said, adding this was why he had him arrested.

Bari prosecutors last week began questioning in Milan and Rome some of the women who were allegedly paid by Tarantini to attend Berlusconi's parties.

Taps of Tarantini's telephone revealed him offering money to escort girls to spend the night at Berlusconi's residences in Rome and Sardinia.

Tarantini previously told prosecutors in Bari he supplied more than 30 women - many of them prostitutes - for 18 parties organised by the premier in Rome and at his villa in Sardinia.

Tarantini said recently he "feared for his life" and there is concern among Bari prosecutors about his knowledge of organised crime in the area.


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