Who is Raffaello Follieri? Former Italian conman tells his story of passion with Anne Hathaway

Raffaello Follieri dated Anne Hathaway for four years before he was held for fraud and sent to prison


                            Who is Raffaello Follieri? Former Italian conman tells his story of passion with Anne Hathaway
Raffaello Follieri with (right) Anne Hathaway (Photos by David Livingston and Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Raffaello Follieri, Anne Hathaway's convicted conman ex has spoken up about their relationship, claiming "I’ve been hurt" but am "not angry". The couple dated from 2004 and the two remained together until Follieri was held for fraud in 2008 and sentenced to prison thereafter.

'The Princess Diaries' star was recently in the news when she made an appearance in the latest episode of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and began to stan Denali Fox. Last year, Hathaway, who plays Catwoman in the DC Universe, shared the brave story of a little boy called Bridger who was mauled by a dog while trying to save his little sister.

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It was recently revealed that not only did Hathway find Follieri 'sooooo wonderful looking', but the gorgeous Italian property mogul treated her like the Queen of Genovia, the fictitious character she played in 'The Princess Diaries', a film that started Hathway's career as a teenager. But the good life ended when after pleading guilty to 14 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy, Follieri was sentenced to four years in prison. 

Raffaello Follieri attends "Children And Art" Honoring Stephen Sondheim's 75th Birthday post-show dinner at The Four Seasons on March 21, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Who is Raffaello Follieri?

Follieri is an Italian real estate developer who is best known for the Vati-Con Scandal. The scandal involved accusations that Follieri misappropriated a $50 million investment from Bill Clinton and billionaire Ronald Burkle meant to buy Roman Catholic churches and monasteries in the United States. Following his arrest, court papers show prosecutors claimed Follieri lied about his links to the Vatican.

Follieri, an only child whose father was a lawyer with connections in business, finance, and the Vatican, was 23 years old and running near his Rome apartment when the idea of buying church real estate germinated in his mind. After the Vatican was hit by cases of sexual abuse of children by priests on a massive scale, the Church began selling property to pay victims, the Daily Mail reported. "Local developers were buying properties in Manhattan and Los Angeles, but the majority of the [Church’s] property was in the middle of nowhere with little real estate value. The Follieri Group was the first real estate fund to buy church property on a global level," Follieri said in an exclusive interview with the Mail. 

In the US, Follieri would eventually plead guilty in a New York court to 14 charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He didn't have much of a choice. He might have faced a 160-year sentence if the matter had gone to trial. Instead, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. On his release, he was deported to Italy, and remains banned from entering the US.

Actress Anne Hathaway and boyfriend Raffaello Follieri attend Heidi Klum's 5th Annual Halloween party at Marquee on October 31, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

'A lot of happy, happy times'

According to Vanity Fair, Follieri and Hathaway met through a mutual friend in early 2004. "I was 25 years old when we met [in 2004]. We had a lot of happy, happy times. I thought nothing was the limit for me," Follieri said on Sunday's exclusive interview with the Daily Mail. "I was having dinner with friends,’ he says. ‘A Swedish friend asked, “Can I invite this girlfriend of mine?” I didn’t know about Annie’s movies, I wasn’t watching the sort she was in — The Princess Diaries. She was just a nice girl who made a very nice impression," he said.

Follieri, who was 25 at the time, was an hour late on his first date with Hathaway, who was 21, and the relationship got off to a rough start. 'The Devil Wears Prada' star was said to be "furious," but Follieri subsequently made amends by sending the actress a dozen flowers. In an interview, Hathaway reportedly described meeting Follieri as "totally love at first sight", Instyle reported. "He is sooo good-looking," she gushed. "He looks like a god."

Actress Anne Hathaway and her boyfriend Raffaello Follieri attend the after party for the 59th Annual Tony Awards at the Marriott Marquis June 5, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

'Fiery' relationship

Follieri took her around the world on private planes and yachts, paying £87,000 ($1,19,500) for a private plane to a New Year's Eve celebration at fashion designer Oscar De La Renta's home in the Dominican Republic, where Bill and Hillary Clinton were also present, the Daily Mail reported. They usually stayed at the Ritz in Paris, the Excelsior in Rome, the Dorchester in London, during their lavish romance.

Follieri described their connection as "fiery," with passionate flare-ups, make-ups and a plethora of presents, including magnificent sapphire and diamond earrings, an emerald and pearl Cartier necklace, and a topaz diamond cuff bracelet. In exchange, Hathaway gave him a ‘cute' plastic sculptured green frog, the kind that transforms into a lovely prince when kissed by a princess.

Anne Hathaway and Raffaello Follieri arrives at the post haute couture show gala dinner and ball in the Parco dei Daini at the Villa Borghese on July 7, 2007 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Elisabetta Villa /Getty Images)

'Broke into a thousand pieces'

Follieri was then arrested for fraud on June 24, 2008. "That night Annie phoned me from Los Angeles where she was doing Press [for the movie 'Get Smart']," he says. "We were on the phone for ten minutes talking about when she might come home. If I remember, Annie’s last words were “I love you for ever” and we ended the call. That was 2 am on June 24, 2008. At 6 am I was arrested. I never spoke to Annie again."

Follieri claims he has no animosity toward Hathaway, but the pain is there on his face. He hasn't heard from the lady he loved since his incarceration, not even a message of support while he "broke into a thousand pieces" in jail. "Never, never, never," he said. "I think she made a business decision. She decided saving her career was most important. I am not bitter. You can look in my eyes. I don’t have anger but I’ve been hurt."

Actress Anne Hathaway (L) and Raffaello Follieri arrive at the 80th Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 24, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Prosecutors claim that money from investors, including Ron Burkle, the private equity tycoon best known for his close personal connection with former President Clinton, was used to support Follieri's extravagant lifestyle with his celebrity girlfriend. His company's expense account covered lavish meals, flowers, medical bills for him, his parents, and Hathaway, as well as an exclusive dog-walking service for Esmerelda, the couple's brown Labrador, the Mail reported. 

Follieri is now happily married to Konstantina, a New York acquaintance who supported him during his time in prison. They have houses in Milan and Athens, as well as a four-year-old boy named Pasquale and a girl on the way. He has also rebuilt his life financially. Follieri Energy, his firm, owns assets worth more than £150 million ($206 million), including 162 fuel stations. Its main business, FHolding UAE, is worth plenty, together with its other subsidiaries.

 Actress Anne Hathaway and Raffaello Follieri attends the Erin Fetherston Fall 2008 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2008 at The Promenade at Bryant Park on February 1, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for IMG)

Speaking about the time after he spent in a rat-infested jail with 'excrement in the showers' and food so rotten it made him ill, Follieri said he flew to Italy where he met his parents and drove for three hours into Rome. His mother, who had supported him throughout, was there with a big lunch spread. "A few weeks later Konstantina came to spend some time with me and never left. Then, that’s it, my life started again," he said. 

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