Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been taking a lot of flack lately, what with allegations of corruption and dictatorial leanings, his divorce, and his penchant for hiring attractive women for important positions. Now he’s got to deal with charges that he’s covering up archaeological remains on one of his many properties.
The accusations stem from secret tapes made by call girl Patrizia D’Addario, in which the Italian leader can be heard boasting that he covered up the existence of thirty Phoenician tombs on the property of his villa in Sardinia. Italy has strict antiquities laws and the tombs should have been reported to the authorities. Covering them up would have stopped any delays in constructing the villa, but is illegal, not to mention politically damaging.
Berlusconi’s lawyer claims the Prime Minister doesn’t have any tombs on his property and that he did not know Ms. D’Addario was a call girl. He also denies that any money changed hands.
If there are tombs on Berlusconi’s property they could be a significant find and help Italy’s beleaguered tourist industry. The Phoenicians were a civilization of sea traders centered in what is now Lebanon from about 1550 to 300 BC. They set up trading posts all around the Mediterranean and even circumnavigated Africa. Several Phoenician sites are already tourist destinations in Italy, such as the city if Tharros in Sardinia, shown here.