ROME -- Valter Lavitola, linked to a sex scandal involving former Italian Prime Minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, has returned to Italy to face a host of criminal charges.
His alleged crimes include criminal conspiracy, criminal bankruptcy, bribery, money laundering and fraud.
The former editor of Avanti! magazine, who had been a fugitive in Buenos Aires for six months, returned voluntarily to Rome to face trial on Monday. He is currently being detained in Poggioreale prison near Naples to await trial and was to be questioned today (Wednesday). Lavitola, who was a business partner of Bari businessman Giampaolo Tarantini who was accused of supplying high class escort girls to Berlusconi’s residence for so-called “bunga bunga”parties, allegedly acted as a negotiator between Tarantini and Berlusconi.
Lavitola's sister, Maria, has told authorities that her brother intended to write to Berlusconi asking for EUR 5 million. According to a statement made to Neapolitan prosecutors yesterday (Tuesday), mentioned in the arrest warrant for her brother, Maria Lavitola had said that if the former premier refused to pay, then, "having returned to Italy, Valter would have had every moral right to speak of everything he knows about Berlusconi."
Italian news agency ANSA reports that the two-part investigation includes allegations of the creation of false documents in order to secure EUR 23 million worth of financing for the magazine which include exaggerated circulation figures and false costs. According to a journalist from Avanti! who claimed to have been forced by Lavitola to carry out these operations, a large part of these funds were transferred to foreign accounts.
The second part of the investigation is an alleged bribery scandal, involving Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Panamanian Justice Minister Roxana Mendes, concerning contracts for constructing prisons in the country.
Valter Lavitola was arrested at Fiumicino airport on Monday