A nightclub in Sardinia owned by former Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore has been accused of ‘epidemic negligence’ after a Covid-19 outbreak there last summer abruptly interrupted the season tourism in the island and was linked to clusters of infections across Italy.
Two other sites – Phi Beach and Country Club – were charged with negligence as Sardinian prosecutors closed an investigation into contagion at nightclubs.
The management of Billionaire, to which the rich and famous of Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda gravitate, reportedly failed to take appropriate measures to ensure that staff were well protected against the virus, such as providing them with a sufficient number of masks facial. Fifty-eight employees tested positive in the outbreak, which emerged in mid-August, and infections among footballers, celebrities and other club fans have been traced to the site.
Briatore was hospitalized in Milan at the end of August after being infected, as was his friend Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister. Berlusconi was confirmed to have the coronavirus in early September, shortly after returning from his villa on the Costa Smeralda. The 83-year-old was pictured with Briatore outside his holiday home in Sardinia, both without a mask.
Billionaire opened in July after the spring shutdown and hosted thousands of guests before being forced to close due to the outbreak, which was partly responsible for an increase in cases in other Italian regions, notably Lazio, Campania and Tuscany, as holidaymakers from the Costa Smeralda returned home.
Briatore said at the time that his nightclub “always played by the rules. But if the people are all stuck together, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Tempio Pausania city prosecutors have opened their investigation after unions received complaints from nightclub staff over working conditions. Billionaire staff who were suspected of having Covid-19 reportedly continued to work or received no swab tests, while positive cases were reported late or not reported to the local health authority at all.
Officials at Phi Beach and Country Club reportedly did not adequately equip staff with protective equipment, including face masks.
Billionaire executive attorney Antonella Cuccureddu has dismissed the charges. “At Billionaire, anti-Covid measures were adopted with the utmost caution when authorities authorized the reopening of nightclubs,” she told local newspaper La Nuova Sardegna. “We will have the opportunity to provide our knowledge of the files to prosecutors to prove that what really happened was not attributable to any crime.”
Prosecutors will now meet with nightclub management and lawyers before presenting their evidence to a judge at the end of July. The judge will then decide if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Briatore is also facing defamation allegations after an argument with a Sardinian mayor who limited the hours of nightlife along the Costa Smeralda.