When you hear the word “gigolo” it conjures up images of a tanned, Adonis, godlike individual with the smoothness of whipped butter. But the reality is often different. Helg Sgarbi, a rather ordinary, former Swiss investment banker has been sentenced to jail for six years after pleading guilty of conning millions of pounds out of wealthy European women including the BMW heiress, Suzanne Klatten. Mr. Sgarbi’s surprise plea of guilty brought what might have been a lengthy court case to a close within only a few hours.
The 44-year-old Sgarbi admitted to threatening Mrs. Klatten with the release of explicit videotapes of their time spent together. Mrs. Klatten had already been victimized by Sgarbi before when he convinced her to give him 6.2 million Euro for an “accident” he had supposedly been involved in while in the United States. The heiress gave him this money out of fear for his life when he told her he had injured the daughter of a Mafia boss and would be murdered if he did not come up with the funds.
Mr. Sgarbi showed premeditation in his determination to swindle Suzanne by having an accomplice hide in an adjoining room of the hotel where they met up, and filming what should have been a private time between two people. To do so shows his intentions from the very beginning.
Suzanne Klatten showed courage many women would not have by coming forward to expose the latest attempt at extortion by Mr. Sgarbi. As reported by Nick Squires in Rome, Telegraph.co.uk, Prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch praised Mrs. Klatten for her bravery in exposing the extortion attempt. As a married mother of three children, Suzanne Klatten may very well be an inspiration to any woman who finds herself the victim of a predator of wealthy or even not so wealthy women. Yet, sometimes, the predator is not always a man.
In October of 2006, a London immigration Judge, Mohammed Ilyas Khan, 61, was asked to step down from his job with pay pending an investigation into a blackmail case involving him, a Brazilian cleaning woman, and a female judge. Rosaline Driza, 38, was jailed for trying to blackmail both judges after stealing video tapes showing Mohammed Ilyas Kahn having sex with two women, including the unidentified female judge. After being jailed for 30 months, Rosaline won an appeal on the charges of blackmail due to “fresh evidence”.
No one is immune to blackmail. Blackmail can come from any source and from any time period in a person’s life. We don’t always know what direction our life will take us, and often, we may be thrown into the public spotlight, or amass large amounts of money…which then makes one a potential victim. Actress Cameron Diaz became prey to this when photographs she took long before she became famous, were used by the photographer, John Rutter in an attempt to cash in on her fame and desire to protect her reputation. Although Mr. Rutter presented he had a “customer” who wished to purchase the photos for 5 million dollars, he was found guilty of attempting to blackmail Ms. Diaz by “selling” the photos back to her.
The one connection between most cases of blackmail is trust. Generally, the blackmailer is someone the victim has had either a personal or a business relationship with. Blackmail violates not only the laws of man, but the laws of decency by using the relationship you have with another human to further yourself financially or socially. Blackmail can cross the boundaries of social status, financial means, friendships, employers and employees, anywhere. Anytime another person seeks to use information about someone to force that person into doing what they want…it is blackmail. While it may be bordering on the lines of innocence when a child says to a sibling…”If you don’t do what I want I am telling Mom you broke her cup” – these behaviors can escalate to become a habitual method a person uses to always get what they want, regardless of the harm to others. Any person can find themselves at some time in their life thinking of or actually using manipulative methods to achieve something they want.
But premeditated, carefully executed methods used by people like Helg Sgarbi, start out and end up as nothing more than a crime – a crime against other humans who had the misfortune to trust, and a crime in the eyes of the law. As more and more people find the strength to come forward as did Mrs. Klatten, blackmailers and extorters might find fewer victims to prey on. And because of Suzanne Klatten’s difficult decision, other women will now be safe from yet one more predator.
Nick Squires, Rome, Telegraph.co.uk