Twist in Gina Lollobrigida 'fake wedding' saga
Gina Lollobrigida ... her former lover says he legitimately married her. Photo: Getty Images
The mystery over Gina Lollobrigida's "fake wedding" has deepened after her former lover insisted he had legitimately married the Italian film star, despite her not being at the ceremony.
Javier Rigau y Rafols, a 51-year-old Spanish businessman, said Miss Lollobrigida had consented to the wedding, willingly signed all the necessary documents and had agreed to marry him by proxy.
Miss Lollobrigida, who was one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1960s, filed a complaint earlier this week with police in Rome, claiming she had recently discovered that her much younger ex-lover had "secretly" married her without her knowledge.
Top Hollywood star ... Gina Lollobrigida, pictured in London in February 1969. Photo: Getty Images
The 85-year-old said she would never have consented to the wedding, which took place in November 2010 in a church in Barcelona, and accused Mr Rigau of paying an impostor to stand in for her.
He was trying to lay claim to her £30 million ($45 million) estate, which includes properties in Rome, Sicily and Monte Carlo, she alleged.
But Mr Rigau launched a robust counter-attack yesterday, insisting through a lawyer that his former lover, once called "the most beautiful woman in the world", had been "fully aware" of the marriage and had arranged the ceremony herself.
Gina Lollobrigida, pictured here in September 1960, claims she recently discovered her much younger ex-lover had married her without her knowledge. Photo: Getty Images
"It is impossible that Ms Lollobrigida was not aware of the wedding," the lawyer, Teresa Bueyes said. She insisted that the marriage was completely legitimate and that Miss Lollobrigida had travelled to Barcelona in August 2010 to request permission to marry "in absentia".
"Gina Lollobrigida came here to Barcelona and in front of a notary asked for that permission," she said. "To get married by power of attorney is a very specific request, you have to say who is going to represent you at the wedding and to specify the kind of wedding it will be - that is what she did and it is totally legitimate," Miss Bueyes added in an interview on the Spanish television channel Telecinco.
The lawyer dismissed claims that Mr Rigau tricked the star into the proxy marriage to inherit her fortune.
"It is Mr Rigau that has the bigger fortune - with assets of 43 million euro ($56 million) - and in any case he went to lawyers in Rome and signed a document rejecting any inheritance from her on her death," she said. The former sex symbol met Mr Rigau at a party in Monte Carlo in the 1980s. They announced plans to marry in 2006 but shortly afterwards Miss Lollobrigida called the wedding off.
Miss Bueyes did not offer an explanation why the former screen diva would want to marry her ex-boyfriend four years after they allegedly split. She said only that Miss Lollobrigida had opted for a marriage by proxy in order to "avoid a media spectacle".
Miss Lollobrigida, who lives in a villa in Rome, claims to have discovered the "fake" marriage after coming across documents on the internet written by a former business partner of Mr Rigau. These identified the woman who allegedly turned up at the church in her place as Maria Pilar Guimera Gabilondo, who is in her sixties and from Barcelona.
A man at her home, who refused to give his name but said he was a relation, confirmed that she had been at the wedding. "Yes she was there, but she did nothing wrong," he said. "All the eight guests were aware it was a wedding by proxy undertaken on the wishes of Miss Lollobrigida - she even sent signed photographs for everyone there."
Miss Bueyes suggested that Miss Lollobrigida was denying knowledge of the wedding because she had fallen under the influence of a new manager, 25-year-old Andrea Piazzolla.
"Strange things have happened lately. I am convinced she is being manipulated by someone," she said. "She doesn't answer the phone to anyone, not even her son or grandson or any of the lawyers who have represented her for years - some of whom were at the wedding."
Speaking to London's The Daily Telegraph in Rome, Mr Piazzolla denied the accusations and said he had only Ms Lollobrigida's best interests at heart.
He said they had "all the evidence necessary" to pursue legal action against her former boyfriend.
Mr Rigau was not the only person involved in the alleged scam, said Mr Piazzolla. "We believe there were others involved in this fraud, probably seven or eight people".
In an interview on Italian television last night, Miss Lollobrigida repeated the allegations against her former lover.
"His motive was clear - he was hoping to inherit my estate on my death. I want to uncover the truth and I won't rest until I do," she said.
The Daily Telegraph, London