Italian Countess Remembered in Private Service

March 12, 2001 - 0:0
MILAN An Italian countess whose body washed up on the French coast two weeks after her mysterious disappearance from her luxury villa was remembered at a private funeral service in Milan on Saturday.

About 300 people attended the church service for Countess Francesca Vacca Agusta, a millionairess renowned for her jet-set parties at her house in Portofino on the Italian Riviera.

Vacca Agusta, 58, was the former wife of Corradino Agusta, the head of Italy's Agusta Helicopter Empire.

Her ashes were expected to be flown to Mexico, where she lived for several years in the 1990s as a fugitive from Italian justice.

Vacca Agusta was last seen alive on January 8, when a maid reported seeing her wandering out into her clifftop garden at Portofino.

Italian police mounted a huge sea search and found her clothes but no body.

Over two weeks later, the countess's corpse washed up in a coastal inlet near the French resort of Toulon.

Police have said they suspect she committed suicide.

In the early 1990s, Italy's anti-graft magistrates issued an international warrant for her arrest, accusing her of helping businessman Maurizio Raggio, a Portofino restaurant owner, switch funds from Swiss Bank accounts to the Bahamas.

The charges were part of a wider graft probe into her close friend and former Italian prime minister Bettino Craxi, who was found guilty of channeling millions of dollars of political bribe money into foreign bank accounts.

Vacca Agusta fled to Mexico but was extradited to Italy in 1997 and given a jail sentence. She was allowed to return to her Riviera villa after plea bargaining.