Paparazzi focus of extortion case


ROME -- Eleven Italian paparazzi were officially named Thursday in a special extortion investigation that alleges they used compromising photos of scores of high-powered subjects for blackmail.

Though investigators have not revealed the names of those blackmailed, the high-profile case is reported to include dozens of well-known actors, film producers, athletes and political figures, including -- according to statements she made -- the daughter of Italian media tycoon and former Prime Minister Silvio Berluconi.

The central figure in the case is Fabrizio Corona, a 32-year-old photographer alleged to have brokered deals between other photographers and their subjects. Corona denies any wrongdoing, insisting that he sold the photos for the same prices publications would have paid for them.

"There is nothing illegal in what I did," Corona is quoted as saying in the local press. "I sold photos to people who wanted them."

The pre-trial hype of this case has been front-page material in the Italian press for weeks, including reams of unconfirmed reports about which figures paid to block the publication of their pictures.