Chi, the Italian gossip magazine which has published 50 topless photos of Kate Middleton, is no stranger to public scandal - but it appears the glossy weekly is as well-versed in preventing lurid headlines as propagating them.

The magazine, read by 3.5 million Italians, is owned by Mondadori, the publishing house which also produces the French version of Closer, the first magazine to publish the Middleton images.

Mondadori is run by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and critics believe Chi often provides a shield and mouthpiece for the bunga bunga-loving mogul.

In 2009, Chi famously published imagines of Berlusconi attending the birthday party of 18-year-old Noemi Letizia, with whom he was alleged to be conducting an improper relationship. In the accompanying article Letizia called Berlusconi "daddy" but maintained that her relationship with him was "innocent".

Soon after the publication, the web was flooded with comments claiming the pictures had been clearly photo-shopped in order to give an innocent image of the womanising prime minister.

A few days later, Chi ran an exclusive interview with Berlusconi headlined "Adesso parlo io" (Now it is my turn to speak), in which the PM labelled speculation about his sex life as "lies". As the bunga bunga scandal grew, Chi, and in particular its editor Alfonso Signorini, played an increasingly prominent role in the affair.

In a telephone conversation which was tapped by Italian police, Signorini offered advice on handling the press to Karima El Mahroug - aka Ruby the Heart Stealer, the 18-year old girl with whom Berlusconi allegedly paid to have sex while she was under the age of consent. Signorini subsequently shot an exclusive interview with El Mahroug, which was broadcast by the Berlusconi-owned television channel Canale 5.


Signorini may be circumspect when it comes to Berlusconi but his coverage of other well-known Italian figures is far more salacious.

Chi regularly runs exposés on the holidays and sex lives of Italian celebrities. Earlier in 2012, it ran exclusive pictures of Francesco Schettino, the captain of the sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia, and the Moldovan woman who was reportedly in the control room with him on the night of the capsize.

Celebrities regularly featured in Chi include Ilary Blasi, the showgirl married to Italian football star Francesco Totti, and George Clooney's former girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis.

The magazine is already known to the royal family's lawyers, thanks to its decision in 1997 to publish pictures of Princess Diana as she was dying after a car accident in France.

In the face of widespread outrage, the magazine's then-editor defended the publication of the images, saying they were "touching" and "tender".

Signorini has mounted a similar defence against those attacking him for the Middleton snaps - and told reporters that not even a phone call from the Queen would stop him printing the Duchess of Cambridge pictures.

The magazine is directly supervised by Marina Berlusconi, daughter of Silvio. She insists that her father has had nothing to do with the decision to publish the Kate Middleton pictures, as he is far too busy with politics to get involved in one of his magazines.

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Karima El Mahroug, alias Ruby the Heart Stealer posing during a photocall at the Karma disco in Milan (Reuters) Reuters
Noemi letizia
Noemi Letizia famously called Berusconi “Papi” (daddy) (Reuters) Reuters
Italian gossip magazine Chi editor Alfonso Signorini (Twitter) Reuters