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Raffaello Follieri

The conman who enchanted a Hollywood star

Follieri with Anne Hathaway. Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

The last time I spoke to Anne Hathaway was in 2008, says the Oscar-winning actress’s ex-boyfriend Raffaello Follieri in the Daily Mail. “Annie’s last words were “I love you for ever” and we ended the call.” That was at 2am on June 24. Four hours later Follieri was arrested for fraud. “I never spoke to Annie again.” While he spent four and a half years in prison, Hathaway severed all connection and became a global star. “She made a business decision,” he says, speaking about their relationship for the first time. “She decided saving her career was most important. I am not bitter.”

They met in 2004, when Hathaway was 21 and making a name for herself in Hollywood. “I invited her to lunch, but I was late. I sent her roses to apologise.” The actress was charmed by the Italian property dealer, who was four years her senior, tall, dark and handsome. He was, as Hathaway would gush to her friends, “a god”. Better still, he was staggeringly rich. He showered Hathaway with presents: sapphire earrings, emerald necklaces, topaz bracelets.

But she had no idea where the money was coming from. In 2008 Follieri pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering following accusations that he had misappropriated $50m from investors who included billionaire Ronald Burkle, a close friend of Bill Clinton. They thought they were buying Roman Catholic churches, and that Follieri was linked to the Vatican. In reality he was a scammer, and the money was going towards buying Hathaway presents. “I was in my twenties,” he says. “I was superficial. You can absolutely say I flew too close to the sun.” Lesson learnt. He’s now out of prison and running a £150m oil company in Saudi Arabia.