Italian film diva Gina Lollobrigida loses court battle in bizarre 'fake marriage' case

Nick Squires
Gina Lollabrigida was an international sex symbol at the height of her fame. - Getty Images

Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian actress who was once hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world, has lost a bizarre legal battle in which she claimed that her former boyfriend conned her into a fake marriage in order to get his hands on her fortune.

Ms Lollobrigida, who was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 1960s, accused Javier Rigau, who is 34 years her junior, of tricking her into signing documents which gave permission for a wedding in Spain in which she was represented by a proxy.

The 89-year-old former sex symbol claimed she had no idea that the ceremony in Barcelona, in which she was represented by a Spanish woman, had taken place until she read about it by chance on the internet. 

The actress took her ex-boyfriend to court in Rome, where she lives in a villa on a well-preserved stretch of the ancient Roman Appian Way.

During the two-year trial she said she had never even had sex with Mr Rigau, let alone married him. “Even when we went travelling we slept in separate rooms and we never had intimate relations. I never once went to his house in Barcelona. He came here (to Rome) a few times to have dinner,” she said.

Gina Lollobrigida and her then boyfriend, Javier Rigau, at a Red Cross ball in Monte Carlo in 2005. Credit: Rex

But the court rejected her case, ruling that the wedding in Barcelona in November 2010 was entirely valid. The court acquitted 55-year-old Mr Rigau of all charges, including fraud and falsifying documents. 

Prosecuting lawyers had called for the Catalan businessman to be sentenced to eight months in prison. They accused the Spaniard of trying to “profit” from “the acquisition of the state of marriage and inheritance rights, to the detriment of Ms Lollobrigida.”

Claudia Terracina, a prosecutor, told the court that the actress had at one point considered marrying Mr Rigau in New York but had then changed her mind, a decision which had allegedly disappointed the Spaniard.

He was accused of arranging the proxy marriage in 2010 and then having Ms Lollobrigida unintentionally ratify it two years later by persuading her to sign a document which, he told her, involved a defamation case.  “The aim of the accused was to marry her into order to have access to her immense wealth,” the prosecutor said.

But that was strongly denied by Mr Rigau’s lawyers, who said Ms Lollobrigida’s accusations had no foundation. They said Mr Rigau was wealthy in his own right and never had any intention of trying to claim the actress’s money. 

Gina Lollabrigida starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1956. Credit: Rex Features

 

Under Italian law, the judge in the case has 90 days in which to explain the ruling in more detail. “The court’s ruling shows that there was no fraud and that the church wedding was absolutely legitimate,” said Alessandro Gentiloni, Mr Rigau’s lawyer.

Fabrizio Siggia, Ms Lollobrigida’s lawyer, said they would appeal the sentence once details of the ruling were released. “We respect the sentence and will wait to understand why the judge acquitted the defendant,” he said. “My client insists that she never married him.”

Known in Italy as “La Lollo” and one of the leading sex symbols of her day, Miss Lollobrigida starred in romantic comedies and big-screen epics opposite Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. She was often compared with two other sultry Italian actresses of the era – Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale.

She made her first Hollywood film, Beat the Devil, with Humphrey Bogart in 1953 and starred in Solomon and Sheba with Yul Brynner. She appeared with Anthony Quinn in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

After retiring from acting she established a career as a sculptress and photographer and became involved in humanitarian causes, acting as a special representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

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