It could be the cast for a remake of one of those 60s classical epics: George Clooney as one of the stars, together with a former belly dancer and 32 assorted starlets, dancers and showgirls.
In fact, it is just part of the witness list agreed on Wednesday for the trial in which Italy‘s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is accused of paying an underage prostitute. Others with walk-on parts in the courtroom drama include the Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Formula One team boss Flavio Briatore, and three ministers in Berlusconi’s last cabinet – including the former topless model who was his equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna.
The judges in Milan agreed that 214 witnesses be called. They will start giving evidence on 2 December.
The prosecution wants to hear from Karima El Mahroug – stage name Ruby Heartstealer – the Moroccan runaway-turned-nightclub belly dancer who is alleged to have attended parties at Berlusconi’s mansion outside Milan that ended in so-called “bunga bunga” sessions other witnesses have claimed were near-orgies. The prosecution has called 32 other young women said to have been present.
Berlusconi, who is also accused of abusing his position to cover up his alleged offence, denies all wrongdoing. He risks up to three years in jail on the vice charge and up to 12 years for abuse of office.
The then prime minister is alleged to have pressured police into releasing El Mahroug after she was arrested on suspicion of theft in May 2010. She has since denied having sex with the 75-year-old Berlusconi.
According to leaks of the case against him, El Mahroug said in statements that she spent a night in a hotel with Ronaldo – a claim vehemently denied by the footballer – and dined at Berlusconi’s home with Clooney. The former prime minister’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, has said he wants the two men to “dismantle” El Mahroug’s accounts to undermine her credibility as a witness.
In the case of the Hollywood star, that might be a gamble. Interviewed in October, Clooney said he had indeed dined with Berlusconi and that it was “one of the more astonishing evenings of my life”.
He went to see him at his palazzo in Rome to lobby him about the situation in Darfur. But, Clooney said cryptically, it “became a very different evening than anyone thought”.
As for Berlusconi, he protested on Tuesday that the prosecutors had “ruined the reputations” of women whose “only fault was that of having accepted a dinner invitation from the prime minister”.
Or, as Kenneth Williams put it in the spoof 60s epic Carry On Cleo: “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”
John Hooper, The Guardian