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MS billionaire named in Gold Club trial

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A strip club allegedly frequented by Bill Gates is under scrutiny by the US Government over links to pimps, the Mafia and fraud.

On trial in Atlanta is the owner of The Gold Club, Steve Kaplan. He says his strip joint, which has a $10 entrance fee and scantily clad waitresses serving up $5 beers, is merely an upmarket hostess joint for professionals who want to relax, today's Times reports.

His lawyers claim the club has played host to the likes of the King of Sweden, who spent two hours merrily watching strippers in one of the club's private rooms - a claim denied by Sweden's royals.

These private enclaves, known as "Gold Rooms", provide punters with a private striptease for between $200 and $500 an hour, while they sip champagne at up to $2,000 a bottle.

The government disagrees with Kaplan's claims - it believes the club is in league with the Mafia, supplies prostitutes to club visitors, cons customers out of thousands of dollars, and has deals with corrupt police officers.

It has charged Kaplan and 16 others with a string of charges, from credit card fraud and loan-sharking to prostitution and extortion.

And it has hauled a group of Mafia mobsters into the dock to testify.

"This is an organised crime case," Art Leach, the chief prosecutor, told The Times. "This is a case about greed, about the desire for power and the fear of a national crime family."

And the link to software billionaire Gates? Defence lawyers have been desperately trying to show that the club is visited by a whole range of celebs - including some wholesome characters. Hence the names of Ted Turner, Michael Jordan, George Clooney and Mr Gates all being listed in the case.

A Microsoft representative today said they were unable to comment on what Gates did in his spare time. ®

Related Link

Times article

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