George Clooney could testify for Berlusconi in sex case
Lawyers for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi want to call Hollywood star George Clooney and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo to testify in his upcoming sex trial, one of his team told AFP.
Both are on a list of 78 people, including two serving ministers in Berlusconi's government, his legal team wants to call as witnesses.
Defence lawyers say Clooney and his girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis were among those who attended dinner parties at Berlusconi's villa at Arcore. Prosecutors say these parties were the scenes of orgies and strip-shows with prostitutes.
Berlusconi is to stand trial on April 6 for allegedly having paid dancer Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer", for sex when she was 17, after one of his parties. They both deny the allegation.
"We have proposed George Clooney as a witness," said the lawyer, from the from the Ghedini-Longo law firm.
"Ruby says both Clooney and Canalis were at a party at Arcore."
She and Berlusconi have both insisted that these parties were entirely innocent.
Clooney issued a statement expressing puzzlement.
"It seems odd since I've only met Berlusconi once and that was in an attempt to get aid into Darfur," he said.
Berlusconi's defence added Ronaldo's name to the list after Mahroug told investigating judges she had sex with Real Madrid player after meeting him in a Milan nightclub in January 2010.
Ronaldo, currently the highest-paid footballer in the world, has denied ever meeting her or giving her 4,000 euros in cash for her sexual services.
The Milan judges hearing the trial are not obliged to call those listed by the defence: they can refuse to grant the defence's request if they decide the testimony of a witness is not relevant to the case in question.
The case centres around allegations that Berlusconi not only paid for sex with Ruby, but improperly used his power as prime minister by asking police to release her after she was arrested for suspected theft in May.
Using the services of prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, but paying for sex with a girl under the age of 18 is illegal. Ruby turned 18 in November 2010, and the prosecution alleges that Berlusconi had sex with her several months earlier.
Berlusconi denies both the allegations against him. The the 74-year-old premier has protested that he is the victim of a politically motivated campaign of harassment by "communist" judges.
The prosecution has submitted its own list of 136 witnesses, including 49 girls who attended the billionaire media magnate's parties, some of whom have provided photographic and video evidence of the raunchy evenings.
The defence team argues that the prosecution witnesses's lurid allegations of orgies and of Berlusconi's nights with prostitutes are simply lies.
Clooney is no stranger to Italian courts. In 2010, the 49-year-old Hollywood heart-throb appeared at the fraud trial of three people accused of having co-opted his name for a fashion label.
The Golden Globe-winning actor has a house on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy, not far from Berlusconi's private villa at Arcore.
He spends several months a year there, sometimes with Italian model and actress Canalis. She too features on the list of 78 witnesses the premier's legal team would like to call in Berlusconi's defence.
Other witnesses requested by the defence include Berlusconi's foreign minister, Franco Frattini; and Mara Carfagna, the equality opportunities minister.
Popularly known as "Mara La Bella" ("Beautiful Mara"), Carfagna has a law degree and worked for several years on Italian television shows and as a model before entering politics in 2004.
She came sixth in the 1997 Miss Italy contest.
© 2011 AFP