Silvio Berlusconi's accountant held hostage for a night

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi's accountant was taken hostage in his home by armed intruders who demanded a USD 44 million ransom from the former Italian premier, Italy's police said today.

Police have arrested six people accused of plotting to take Giuseppe Spinelli, one of Berlusconi's closest allies, and his wife Anna hostage.

Three aggressors forced their way into Spinelli's apartment late on Thursday night. Early Friday they forced Spinelli to call Berlusconi, demanding the ransom for the couple's release.

In exchange for the ransom, the aggressors also offered to hand over documents they claimed would overturn a guilty verdict for graft against one of the ex-premier's companies, according to media reports.

The aggressors, who had been tracking Spinelli's movements since June, left a few hours later, taking with them the building's video surveillance tapes.

Spinelli, 71, is one of Berlusconi's closest friends. The media magnate, who is currently on trial for paying a 17-year-old call girl for sex, entrusted his accountant with giving cash presents to young girls invited to his parties.

The ex-premier's lawyers did not alert police to the hostage situation and extortion attempt until Saturday, according to media reports.

The aggressors claimed the documents they had in hand would overturn a court ruling in 2011 which ordered one of Berlusconi's family companies to pay 560 million euros to a rival group as compensation for corrupt activities in a takeover battle.

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