Italian Police Arrest ‘Casino Royale’ Screenwriter Paul Haggis Over Sexual Abuse Allegations

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Posted: June 20, 2022, 5:56 a.m.

Last update: July 6, 2022, 1:32 a.m.

Police in the Italian city of Ostuni yesterday arrested Canadian screenwriter/director Paul Haggis, responsible for Casino Royale and other Hollywood blockbusters. He faces allegations of sexual abuse of a woman for two days, according to local media.

Hollywood mogul Paul Haggis in 2017
Hollywood mogul Paul Haggis in 2017 as he defended himself against sexual assault charges. He faces the same charges now in Italy. (Image: Shutterstock)

Haggis, who won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Accident in 2005, is also responsible for Million dollar baby in 2004 and Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006. Police detained him as a precaution, according to state broadcaster RAIciting a statement from the Brindisi prosecutor’s office.

Prosecutors charge Haggis with crimes of sexual assault and aggravated bodily harm. He is said to have traveled to Ostuni in the Puglia region of southern Italy to take part in the “Allora Fest” festival. The event is a film, art and music festival in which Haggis was to participate in a conference with Edward Norton and Michael Nozik.

Hollywood gets another black eye

With a clue to the activity that shot Harvey Weinstein, investigators say Haggis allegedly forced an unidentified woman to have sex for two days. He then abandoned her at Papola Casale airport near Brindisi despite her “precarious” physical and psychological conditions.

Airport staff and customs police helped the woman file a complaint. They then took her to Brindisi hospital for a thorough examination.

Prosecutors added in their charges that according to the evidence they gathered, Haggis forced the young woman, a longtime acquaintance, to have sex.

The Hollywood mogul’s lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, is already on the case, ready to defend her client. She said in a statement that she was confident the allegations would be dismissed as Haggis is “completely innocent” of the charges. However, Chaudhry added that his client is “prepared to cooperate fully with the authorities so that the truth comes to light quickly”.

Not the first time

It’s not the first time Haggis has been accused of sexual assault or rape, a story that will haunt him in this latest incident. In January 2018, four women in the United States accused him of various crimes, including sexual assault, harassment and rape. Their charges followed a complaint by publicist Haleigh Breest filed in New York for rape.

Breest accused Haggis of raping her in her SoHo apartment after a movie premiere in 2013 using “significant force and violence.” After the fact, the publicist went to a clinic to carry out an analysis in order to exclude having contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Subsequently, in 2017, she reportedly began psychological treatment following the trauma of the event.

On the other hand, the second complainant, whose identity remains confidential, accused him of an event that occurred in 1996, when she was working with Haggis on a television program. The complainant claims that the director forced her to perform oral sex on him before raping her. Following her testimony, two other women (who also remain anonymous) reported to Haggis an attempted sexual abuse.

Haggis, a former member of the Church of Scientology, fought back in an effort to claim himself as a victim. In his own complaint against Breest, Haggis claimed to have enjoyed “a friendly and flirtatious relationship” with the woman. However, he denied sexually assaulting her. As a result, he sued her for extortion in the form of libel.

The case is still ongoing. Haggis had to provide his DNA to the court to answer the charges. At the same time, he tried to force the court to strike out the testimonies of the other alleged victims.

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