Italy probes possible poisoning of anti-Berlusconi witness

ROME — Italy prosecutors have opened an investigation into the possible poisoning death of a Moroccan model who was a key witness in the trial against ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi over his infamous "bunga bunga" parties.

Imane Fadil, 34, died March 1 at a Milan-area hospital, where she had been treated since Jan. 29 for exhibiting "symptoms of poisoning," Milan prosecutor Francesco Greco said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

In 2012, Fadil had told reporters that she feared for her safety after telling prosecutors investigating possible witness tampering in the case that she was offered money in exchange for her silence about what went on at Berlusconi's parties.

Berlusconi was initially convicted of charges that he paid for sex with an underage woman at the sex-fueled "bunga bunga" parties, and used his influence to cover it up. He was ultimately acquitted by Italy's highest court in 2015.

Asked Saturday to comment, Berlusconi said he was always sorry when a young person dies.

But he added: "I've never known this person and never spoke to her. What I read were her declarations that made me always think these were always invented and absurd things."

Fadil had testified against Berlusconi during the initial trial, and then with two other women had sought civil damages in a spinoff investigation over allegations that Berlusconi paid witnesses for their silence. That trial is ongoing.

Fadil, who had reportedly wanted to be a television sportscaster, argued that she had suffered from lost opportunities because of her involvement in the cases.

Late last year, lawyers for one of Berlusconi's co-defendants in the witness tampering trial began negotiations to settle the women's claims, ANSA reported at the time. But by January, the Milan court had thrown out their claims altogether. Two weeks later, Fadil was hospitalized.

News reports said before Fadil slipped out of consciousness she told her lawyer and family that she feared she had been poisoned.

ANSA quoted Greco as lamenting that the Humanitas hospital in Rozzano didn't report Fadil's complaints or symptoms, which he said were consistent with poisoning while she was being treated. He said prosecutors were only informed of the death when Fadil's lawyer reported it.

In a statement reported by ANSA, Humanitas disputed that, saying that Fadil's medical charts were seized by law enforcement as soon as she died. It said it provided the results of her toxicological exams to prosecutors when they were completed on March 6.

The Pavia lab that conducted the toxicology tests said in a statement Saturday it had been asked by the hospital to analyze metals in Fadil's blood, but stressed that it doesn't measure radioactivity.

Emails and calls to Humanitas and Greco weren't immediately returned Saturday.

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