Italian screen star Gina Lollobrigida’s former toyboy husband has branded her assistant a ‘social parasite’ after he was convicted of taking advantage of her weakened state of mind to plunder her assets.
Spanish businessman Javier Rigau was in court in Rome on Monday to see Andrea Piazzolla receive a three-year prison sentence for brainwashing the actress to cheat her out of her belongings.
The 62-year-old, accused of faking a proxy November 2010 wedding to Gina he linked today to Piazzolla’s ‘manipulation’ of the beauty queen, said justice had finally been done as he revealed the convicted criminal still faces two more trials.
Javier, who insists he remained legally married to Lollobrigida until she died in January aged 95, told MailOnline in an exclusive interview: ‘I am glad they have convicted this nasty man.
‘I was a co-complainant in this case alongside Gina’s only son Milko and her only grandson Dimitri. We have been united from the beginning.
Gina Lollobrigida and ex-husband Javier Rigau at the 56th Red Cross Ball in 2006
Andrea Piazzolla, 36, was convicted of ‘brainwashing’ and defrauding Lollobrigida (pictured together in Rome in 2019), who rose to prominence in the 1960s as the ‘world’s most beautiful woman’ and appeared in scores of films opposite the likes of Sean Connery and Tony Curtis
Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon and Sheba (1959). The actress was once dubbed ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’
Javier Rigau (left) and Gina Lollobrigida’s son Milko Skofic attending her funeral this year
‘In Italian the crime Piazzolla has been convicted of is called ‘Circumvenzione di incapace’, which means manipulating someone who is incapable and taking advantage of their mental weakness to plunder their assets.
‘It is a very dirty and a very low crime and unfortunately the penalties are not that harsh.
‘But the state prosecutors demanded the maximum punishment and the three years Piazzolla got was a lot considering the standard penalty normally handed down for this type of conviction.
‘He is facing another trial for allegedly having emptied Gina’s home of furniture she had bought throughout her life from antique dealers and deceived her completely by telling her they were being restored when he and an alleged accomplice had in reality given them to an auction house to auction them off.
‘I am sure he will be convicted and get another prison sentence.
‘On top of that he has also been charged with money laundering and will be tried for that too.
‘We’re convinced he’s going to end up going to jail for a long time when all this is over.
‘The crimes he’s yet to be tried for will never become spent and I know that he’s facing a minimum of four years if he’s convicted of money laundering plus whatever he’s looking at if convicted of emptying Gina’s house of her furniture when that one comes round.
Lollobrigida pictured left in 1958 and right in 1959
Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida on the set of Trapeze, a 1956 American circus film
‘We waited many years for justice to be done and justice has been done.
‘Piazzolla has said he will appeal this first conviction but we are convinced the appeal judges will ratify this court sentence and he will be known as the eternal delinquent that has isolated Gina from her family and has preyed on her in a brutal way.
‘Our lawyer Michele Gentilone, who is one of Italy’s best criminal lawyers and a cousin of former Italian PM Paolo Gentilone who is the current European Commissioner for Economy, said in the court in front of the judge who sentenced Piazzolla that in his entire legal career he had never seen such a serious and manifest example of the type of crime he’s been convicted of.’
Speaking from Rome after attending Monday’s court hearing where the verdict and prison sentence was announced, Barcelona-born Mr Rigau said: ‘I am still in Italy having come to support Gina’s son and grandson and have the satisfaction of seeing this social parasite jailed.
‘Piazzolla was in the front row and I was just behind with the son and grandson and our lawyers.
‘If I am sincere about my feelings when I saw him I don’t think they could go in a family newspaper. It’s not something I think we need to print.
‘He left court before the conviction was announced because he knew what the result was going to be. He was as white as a sheet of paper.’
Portrait of Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida with one of her cameras photographed in her villa on the the Appian Way in Rome, November 26, 1972
Gina Lollobrigida poses for photographers as she arrives for the screening of a documentary on Miss Italy during the 7th edition of the Rome International Film Festival in 2012
The court in Rome heard Piazzolla had swindled Lollobrigida out of £9 million worth of property, cash, cars and jewellery from 2013 to 2018.
The 36-year-old was also accused of using the actress’s money to buy two apartments near Rome’s Spanish Steps and selling them for £1.75 million.
The actress rose to prominence as ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’ in the sixtes and appeared in scores of films opposite the likes of Sean Connery and Tony Curtis.
When the trial first began before Lollobrigida’s death, she had insisted Piazzolla had not stolen from her, telling the court: ‘He is at my side like a son, helping me to keep going.’
She went on to claim her only son had ‘disappeared from my life for years and returned, not to give me affectionate support, but to take my wealth away from me.’
An expert told the court Lollobrigida had been swayed by Piazzolla while being in a ‘vulnerable’ state and could not be trusted with her finances as a result.
Prosecutors said he had kept the actress in ‘isolation’ and in a ‘state of vulnerability.’
Barcelona-born Mr Rigau said: ‘I am still in Italy having come to support Gina’s son and grandson and have the satisfaction of seeing this social parasite jailed’ (pictured in 2005)
As well as being punished with jail time, although he will remain a free man until his appeals go against him if higher courts uphold this week’s verdict, Piazzolla has been ordered to hand over more than £500,000 to Gina’s son.
Mr Rigau, insisting money was the least of their worries, told Mail Online: ‘What interests me most are the multiple convictions I am confident this man is going to end up receiving, that everyone is forewarned about this person and knows they should avoid him.
‘A plus of course would be that he has to spend the maximum amount of time possible in prison.
‘The judge has 90 days to publish the full written sentence which will make for very interesting reading.’
Recalling how Piazzolla wormed his way into Gina’s life and moved in with her at her villa in Rome after starting to work for her in 2009 when he was 21, Javier said: ‘He knew the son of a woman who came to Gina’s house to Photoshop pictures of her on the occasional Sunday.
‘The son told him his mum worked for a very important person.
‘Piazzolla went to Gina’s looking for a job and got hired to do the most menial tasks in her house.
‘He’s someone who had never studied and had never worked and had been maintained by a former partner he got pregnant and didn’t recognise the child he then fathered with her before he was forced to by the courts and then did exactly the same with another woman.
‘A year and a half after arriving he had separated Gina from her son and grandson, her lawyer, her administrator and a housekeeper, even a gardener.
Andrea Piazzolla attends the funeral of actress Gina Lollobrigida at Chiesa degli Artisti on January 19, 2023 in Rome
‘He persuaded Gina her longstanding lawyer was stealing from her which was a total lie and managed to get the administrator out of Gina’s life by convincing her she was the lawyer’s spy.
‘He told the housekeeper that had been brought in to replace the one that died that she couldn’t sleep any more in the house, even though she was in her eighties and had a heart problem.
‘We discovered Piazzolla had become the sole director of Gina’s company in Italy whose shares belonged to two firms in Monaco where she was officially resident.
‘We’re talking about a woman who before she started experiencing her mental problems was very careful with her money.
‘I was the only one Gina was defending at one point after Piazzolla had isolated her from everyone else. I was with Gina until 2013 until I had a problem with him and his mum over a court case they wanted me to testify in and I refused to be part of.
‘Three days later I was denounced because Gina had suddenly ‘discovered’ she had married me the day before. It was all very stupid and I felt very bad.
‘I was Piazzolla’s last victim, the last person he went after by claiming I had married Gina without her consent which was absurd.
Javier Rigau, Milko Skofic and Dimitri Skofic attend the funeral of actress Gina Lollobrigida
‘The reason a lot of people wrongly think I was Gina’s ex-husband when she died is one of the collateral consequences of the rubbish this delinquent Andrea Piazzolla has thrown over me, over Gina’s son and over her grandson who has been massacred and left suffering depression.
‘To separate me from Gina he had to attack our marriage.’
‘By then she had already become the victim of a mythomaniac, a man with an inferiority complex who has frittered away all her money, hired private planes, moved around in a helicopter, bought 28 new cars through Gina’s company and sold them shortly afterwards for less than half.
‘Piazzolla’s been responsible for a total dilapidation of Gina’s wealth, squandering virtually everything he got his hands on.
‘I wish he had never appeared in Gina’s life and I doubt he would if her former housekeeper, a woman that I appreciated immensely, hadn’t died in 2005.’
Mr Rigau, who has told in the past how he met Gina at a party in Monte Carlo when he was 23 and Lollobrigida was 57, was at her funeral at the start of the year after saying his last goodbye at the private clinic in Rome where she died.
He was acquitted of any wrongdoing by courts in Barcelona and Rome after being accused of faking their November 2010 wedding through a proxy marriage at a civil ceremony in Barcelona.
Despite the Vatican taking action in 2019, a Spanish newspaper published documentation last year appearing to show Rigau and Lollobrigida remained legally married.
Gina told Javier’s Italian fraud and forgery trial in February 2016: ‘Even when we went travelling we slept in separate rooms and we never had intimate relations.’
Gina Lollobrigida’s assistant has been jailed for three years in Italy for embezzling £9million from the beauty queen before she died in January aged 95. Pictured: The Italian actress in the film Solomon and Sheba in 1959
Mr Rigau, who was not in court to hear his ex-partner claim they never had sex, responded at the time by telling Spanish website Vanitatis: ‘It’s caused me great pain seeing Gina saying the things she has against our marriage.
‘I’ve seen a person who doesn’t resemble physically or mentally the one I had at my side for years.’
Recalling an October 2006 interview they gave to Spain’s Hola! magazine announcing their engagement where Gina revealed the love between them was followed by passion, he added: ‘Although we always spoke in French, the first words she taught me when I was very young in Italian were: ‘Siamo in sieme, andiamo a scopare’ which means, ‘Let’s be together, let’s f##k.’
‘If I say how old she was when she went to bed with me, I wouldn’t show her in a good light.’
He insisted in a February 2013 UK newspaper interview: ‘Gina and I married for love and despite everything I still love her very much.’
Speaking after the Vatican so-called ‘annulment’ of the marriage, Javier said: ‘The Pope has seen fit to make a Solomonic decision.’
He insisted today to MailOnline: ‘It didn’t affect the legal marriage so it’s still inscribed in the civil register and in this court case against Piazzolla which we have now won I am described as the husband.’
Mr Rigau has consistently claimed the Italian actress, who starred in such films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1956, Strange Bedfellows alongside Rock Hudson in 1965 and Good Evening, Ms Campbell in 1968, denied knowledge of their wedding after coming under the influence of Andrea Piazzolla.
Gina had been hospitalised for some time at the Rome clinic where she died after undergoing an operation last September for a broken femur.
Andrea Piazzolla and Gina Lollobrigida attend Celebrity Fight Night at Arena di Verona on September 8, 2018 in Verona, Italy
It comes after Lollobrigida’s son slammed ‘toyboy’ Piazzolla as ‘heartless’ and revealed how the cunning fraudster had even forbidden him from seeing his dying mum.
Mr Skofic, 65, told Italian TV host Bruno Vespa:’ The first time I saw my mother in years, was when she was on her deathbed, and she was very emotional.
‘She told she had done everything wrong as she shook her head, I was with my son Dimitri as we spoke.’
He added:’ I had expected the sentence, Piazzolla was heartless towards my mother and the evidence against him was heavy and concrete.’
Describing how he was forbidden from seeing his mother he said:’ I couldn’t speak with her because either I called and Piazzolla was there and my mother spoke on speakerphone, or he answered.
Milko Skofic, the actress’s estranged son, had claimed Piazzolla took advantage of his elderly mother
‘The problem is that I was thrown out, I was not allowed to enter the house and see my mother. But before that I was often with her, we lived close together.
‘I wasn’t allowed to talk to her and he in turn told her I wanted to have her committed so it looked as if all I wanted was her money but in reality I wanted to check on what he was spending her money on.’
When asked if he had been a good son, he replied:’ Yes, the problem is that I was kicked out by him and so it made the relationship with my mother difficult, I wasn’t allowed to see her, he wouldn’t let me.’
The court in Rome heard how he swindled her out of property, including an apartment in the city and one in Montecarlo, plus a house in Tuscany, cars, jewellery and cash, between 2013 and 2018 when he worked for her.
A painting of Venus and Cupid which she owned was sold for £10,000 to a French antiques store when it was worth probably ten times as much.
Piazzolla was found guilty on Monday of taking advantage of Lollobrigida’s failing health and vulnerability and given three years, although prosecutors had asked for seven.
Prosecutors and financial experts are still trying to track down other assets he may have sold and hidden away but fear they will never find them.
Her son has been awarded €450,000 as an interim but the true value of her estate is estimated to be much higher although much of it was sold off by Piazzolla.
Gina Lollobrigida (pictured in her house in 2008 in Rome) died aged 95 in January
He won over her trust, moved in with her and was often at her side, and at the same time pushed her son aside.
Initially before she died Lollobrigida has claimed Piazzolla was innocent of everything and told the court: ‘He is at my side like a son, helping me to keep going.’
She claimed her son ‘had disappeared from my life for years and returned, not to give me affectionate support, but to take my wealth away from me’.
In Lollobrigida’s will, the sex symbol split her assets between her son Milko Skofic Jr and Piazzolla, prompting her family to accuse the assistant of manipulating the actress into giving him a share of her estate.
That longstanding legal dispute took another twist in May when Italian authorities compiling an inventory of Lollobrigida’s estate said they found that £9million (€10million) of assets, the vast majority of the star’s wealth, have disappeared.
Now Piazzolla, who started working for Lollobrigida in 2009 when he was 21, has been convicted of embezzling that amount from the actress and ordered to immediately hand more than £500,000 to Mr Skofic.
The Italian won the actress’s trust, moved in with her in Rome and was often seen at her side at glamourous events.
Piazzolla was accused of buying a Ferrari with her money before selling it and handing the money to his parents. He was also accused of fraudulently buying a F-Type Jaguar, which he allegedly sold in 2018 for €130,000 before pocketing the proceeds.
Andrea Piazzolla, Lollobrigida’s driver-turned-manager, was convicted of defrauding her out of hundreds of thousands of pounds including buying a Pagani supercar
The assistant was also accused of using the actress’s money to buy two apartments near Rome’s Spanish Steps and selling them for €2million.
When the trial first began before Lollobrigida’s death, the actress had insisted Piazzola had not stolen from her. She told the court at the time: ‘He is at my side like a son, helping me to keep going.’
Lollobrigida claimed her son Skofic, ‘had disappeared from my life for years and returned, not to give me affectionate support, but to take my wealth away from me’.
But an expert told the Rome court Lollobrigida had been swayed by Piazzolla while being in a ‘vulnerable’ state and could not be trusted with her finances as a result.
Prosecutors said Piazzolla had kept the actress in ‘isolation’ and in a ‘state of vulnerability’.
But the assistant, who has vowed to appeal against his sentence, said after the verdict: ‘I believe I was the only one who took care of Gina Lollobrigida with love.’
Gina Lollobrigida in a publicity portrait for the film Woman Of Rome in 1954
Piazzolla’s lawyers had claimed that Lollobrigida was not vulnerable and knew what she was doing when she signed the will and transferred assets to the assistant.
Meanwhile, Skofic told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in May that Piazzolla had ruined the last years of his mother’s life by isolating her from ‘everything she held dear’.
‘For three years, I wasn’t even able to get into her house,’ he said. ‘Her friends kept ringing me to ask why no one answered their phone calls… Nearly all of her closest friends were kept away from her… Everything was in his hands.’
Skofic launched legal action against Piazzolla as early as 2015, when he accused him of taking control of firm Vissi D’arte which manages Lollobrigida’s assets and using it to sell three luxury properties as well as buying a Pagani supercar.
The latest legal case related to 350 items of art and antiques worth an estimated £250,000 that Piazzolla is accused of selling without Lollobrigida’s knowledge.
Their relationship dates back at least a decade, to when he became her driver aged 24. He was subsequently promoted to her handyman and then to her manager, before moving to live with her along with his partner.
Lollobrigida’s assets include various properties across Italy as well as her paintings and jewels (pictured: the property in Rome where Gina’s 95th birthday party was held)
Speculation has swirled for years about how close the pair had become – with Piazzolla often showing up at awards ceremonies on her arm.
The actress had described Piazzolla as a ‘son’ and revealed that he has named his daughter Gina after her, describing the little girl as ‘a tiger’.
She described him as ‘a stroke of luck’ who ‘helped me move forwards’ with her life in recent years after she became estranged from Mr Skofic.
A film star and sex symbol of the 1960s and 1970s, Lollobrigida featured in more than 60 films. Along with rival Sofia Loren, Lollobrigida was one of a small number of Italian stars who achieved international fame with a career in Hollywood.
She starred in films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1956, Strange Bedfellows alongside Rock Hudson in 1965 and Good Evening, Ms Campbell in 1968 – acting alongside the likes of Sean Connery, Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra.
Known affectionately by fans and family as ‘La Lollo’, she also starred in Trapeze and Woman of Rome, and split her time between a villa in Monte Carlo, a mansion in Rome and another property in Sicily.
After acting, she started a career as a photographer and sculptor in the 1980s.