ROME (Reuters) - Italian police on Thursday arrested Federica Gagliardi, a woman who acted as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s secretary at two international summits in Canada in 2010, on suspicion of smuggling 24 kg of cocaine on a flight from Venezuela.
Gagliardi, who is in her early 30s, was taken into custody at Rome’s Fiumicino airport shortly after arriving on a flight from Caracas after police found the drugs in her carry-on luggage, a finance police spokesman said.
Officials provided no further details, but according to Italy’s anti-drug police estimates the local street value of 24 kg of pure cocaine, after it is cut with other substances to be sold on, would be about 6.7 million euros ($13.21 million).
The police did not say whether they found pure cocaine.
The Italian media dubbed Gagliardi the “white lady”, splashing her picture on the front pages and describing her as Berlusconi’s mystery companion when she stepped off the plane in Toronto in June 2010, previously unknown, dressed in a white linen blouse and trousers.
In response to questions about her role, Berlusconi’s office said she was acting as his secretary on the trip. She said she had met Berlusconi while campaigning for a member of his party.
After a few weeks, she dropped out of the media spotlight, but her LinkedIn page says she remained a regional government secretary in Rome until last year. ($1 = 0.7192 euros)
Reporting by Antonella Cinelli; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Alison Williams