Naples

Lavitola to serve extortion sentence in house arrest

Found guilty for attempting to blackmail Berlusconi

Lavitola to serve extortion sentence in house arrest

Naples, May 23 - A former newspaper director found guilty of attempting to extort three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi was approved Thursday to serve his sentence under house arrest. Valter Lavitola, an associate of the media magnate and the former director of Avanti!, received a two-year, eight-month sentence in March for attempted blackmail in exchange for hushing up payments to escorts at alleged sex parties at the ex-premier's home. Berlusconi has always denied paying for sex and says he believes the young women were not prostitutes. Lavitola is also reported to have had a key role in procuring a false document from a Caribbean island to keep ex-House speaker Gianfranco Fini, a key Berlusconi friend-turned-foe, embroiled in an alleged scandal over a house in Monte Carlo. He was recently linked to Senator Sergio De Gregorio, a Senator who confessed to prosecutors that he received two million euros from Berlusconi, an alleged bribe to switch sides after being elected for Romano Prodi in 2006, which De Gregorio denies. Wiretaps published in the Italian media appear to show Lavitola boasting about being able to turn other Senators to undermine the Prodi government, which crumbled after two years. Prosecutors have moved to indict Berlusconi, De Gregorio and Lavitola in this case. Lavitola, who came back to Italy last year after a self-imposed exile which Berlusconi advised, is also involved in alleged corruption with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and his government regarding contracts for the construction of prisons in the Central American country. He is currently waiting to be fitted with an electronic tracing anklet for his house arrest, officials said Thursday.

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