The mogul, his wife and a new twist to the wiretap scandal

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The Independent US

Hollywood's wiretapping scandal, in which dozens of entertainment personalities and business executives allegedly had phone calls tapped by a disgraced former private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, has claimed its highest-profile target so far: the personal lawyer to the octogenarian entertainment mogul Kirk Kerkorian.

Terry Christensen, who was indicted on Wednesday, is a high-flying, high-profile Beverly Hills lawyer whose firm's clients have included Sean Connery; Kim Basinger; Barbra Streisand. Mr Christensen has not only handled Mr Kerkorian's affairs but has occasionally partnered him on business ventures. He is accused of paying Mr Pellicano $100,000 (£58,000) to listen into conversations between Mr Kerkorian's estranged wife, the former professional tennis player Lisa Bonder-Kerkorian, and her divorce attorney.

The Kerkorian divorce was a sordid, headline-grabbing affair, because Mrs Kerkorian wanted a stunning, potentially record-breaking $320,000 per month in support payments so she and her daughter could maintain their lifestyle. Mr Kerkorian, meanwhile, accused his wife of conceiving the child with another man and ultimately proved his claim through DNA testing.

In the meantime, Mr Kerkorian was sued by Steve Bing, a property magnate and former boyfriend of the actress Elizabeth Hurley, who accused him of going through his trash in search of dental floss - presumably so Mr Kerkorian's staff could conduct a DNA test on him to see if he was the father. Mr Bing and Mr Kerkorian eventually came to terms without commenting on who the father really was.

The allegations against Mr Christensen are likely to send shivers down the spine of every lawyer who recruited Mr Pellicano - a man who never made a secret of his hardball tactics and faces a 110-count federal racketeering rap sheet.

The indictment against Mr Christensen quotes extensively from tapes found in Mr Pellicano's offices on Sunset Boulevard when the FBI raided three years ago. It alleges that the wiretapping operation against Mrs Kerkorian took place in April and May 2002.

"There is no way, except with my unique techniques, that you would know this," Mr Pellicano is quoted as telling Mr Christensen at one point as they allegedly discussed a conversation overheard between Ms Kerkorian and her lawyer, Stephen Kolodny.

Mr Christensen's friends and colleagues have rallied to his defence. Mr Kerkorian described him as "a paragon of integrity". One of his law partners said she expected him to be fully vindicated. One of his own laywers, Jan Handzlik, told the Los Angeles Times: "It is clear to us that the US attorney did not take the time to learn who Terry Christensen really is or to understand the context in which these events occurred."

It has been just a week since Mr Pellicano, in federal custody without bail, was indicted along with six others - three clients who allegedly ordered him to carry out wiretaps on their behalf, and three business partners including a Los Angeles policeman and a telephone engineer who allegedly developed a custom phone-tapping software package called Telesleuth.

Mr Pellicano's targets are listed in the indictment as having included talent agents, business managers, studio executives, entertainment reporters and actors including Sylvester Stallone and the comedian Garry Shandling.

The feds have spent three years putting together their case so far, and have vowed to keep going for as long as it takes. The most prominent figure discussed to date is Bert Fields, a veteran Hollywood entertainment lawyer. Mr Fields regularly used Mr Pellicano as an investigator, but has repeatedly denied condoning or approving any wrongdoing that Mr Pellicano may have engaged in.