Victor Emmanuel is no stranger to controversy in his homeland. But the latest scandal comes just weeks after Italians were shocked by the scope of corruption in their football league. The arrest of the man the press nicknamed the “poor man” has dominated the front pages. La Repubblica is calling it “the criminal and bitter end of a dynasty,” adding that the Prince is “without a throne, a real homeland, a people and now even a history”.
Victor Emmanuel, his wife and son returned to Italy in 2002 after several years of lobbying. The Prince benefited from ties with the then-Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. They have continued to spend most of their time in Switzerland where they lived in exile. Now Victor Emmanuel is charged with being the ringleader of a group that supplied rigged slot machines and eastern European prostitutes to a casino in Campione d’Italia, an Italian enclave in Switzerland.
Prince Victor’s 34-year-old son, Emanuele Filiberto, has also been arrested. One of the prince’s associates is alleged to be a member of the Sicilian Mafia. Another person detained is Salvatore Sottile, spokesman for the former Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini.
A series of wire-tapped telephone calls allegedly reveal Prince Victor saying that he would use his influence to gain permits for 400 illegal gambling machines, and that one prostitute who had failed in her duties should be given “a good slapping”.
In 1978 Victor Emmanuel shot a young German man sleeping on the deck of a boat near Corsica. Thirteen years later he was acquitted of manslaughter and was given a six-month suspended sentence for firearms offences.
Regardless of his judicial problems, he has alienated many Italians by refusing to apologise for his grandfather Victor Emmanuel III, the king who collaborated with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The Prince has said the racial laws his grandfather signed were “not that bad.”