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The pictures vetoed by Berlusconi

EL PAÍS publishes exclusive images censored in Italy after the prime minister's legal action

Veronica Lario, First Lady of Italy, said a month ago that under her husband's influence, politics in Italy "had degraded to shameless levels", where only looks and television are taken into account, and where "many parents are willing to close their eyes and offer their virgins to the dragon". Her words unleashed a political earthquake that keeps growing in intensity. In this context, the Sardinian photographer Antonello Zappadu, 51, who took from 2007 until January 2009 the pictures of Villa Certosa, the splendid mansion Berlusconi owns in Sardinia, has become the main witness for the prosecution.

Zappadu is not a paparazzo. He is a reporter and has chosen to protect the privacy of the people who appear in the images. That is the reason why all the faces seen in these pages are unrecognizable, because they were fuzzed by him - all, except Berlusconi's. Zappadu's photo feature shows the atmosphere at Villa Certosa, the people with whom Berlusconi socializes and how he spends his spare time. The property covers 60 hectares and is near Porto Redondo, an area concentrating most of the tourism of Costa Smeralda.

Last week, Zappadu tried to sell his graphic work to Panorama, a magazine linked to Berlusconi?s media empire, for 1.5 million euros. The magazine refused to pay that amount for the pictures, and Berlusconi and his lawyers brought charges against the reporter before the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Privacy Defender on grounds of "privacy invasion and swindle attempt".

As a result of the charges, the Public Prosecutor seized Zappadu?s files, including the images taken at public places, such as Olbia Airport, in Sardinia.Those pictures have led to an investigation of Berlusconi?s alleged illegal use of flights financed by the State. The journalist says that "almost every weekend", official planes flown by the 31º Squadrone dell' Aeronautica Italiana delivered at the airport the prime Minister's friends, artists, dancers and velinas (television hostesses).

On August 2008, Berlusconi passed a new regulation that broadened the official flights to include different categories of companions, based on the needs of the Prime Minister.Zappadu's pictures bear witness to the fact that four months before the new regulation came into effect, Berlusconi travelled to Olbia with his friend the Napolitanian singer Mariano Apicella and an alleged flamenco dancer.

The opposition claims that Berlusconi has multiplied by three the expenses and passenger movement, in comparison with the period Romano Prodi was in power (2007 - 2008). Besides, according to an official report by Civil Aviation made available to this newspaper, a direct order issued on June 4, 2008 by the Presidency of the Government declared that five of Berlusconi's private aircrafts and helicopters, property of Alba and Fininvest Helicopters, would from then on be classified as official flights of the Italian State.

The pictures from Villa Certosa reveal that there is an obvious lack of inhibitions in the mansion, which is protected by strong security measures. Berlusconi himself said that one of the men in the pictures is the Czech ex-Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek. This newspaper has not been able to check the identity of the man who appears naked in one of the photos.

Traducción: Newclips