NEW YORK – The international moneyman who Woody Allen claims cheated him out of over $14 million testified yesterday that he went into business with the acclaimed director only "to help a friend in need."
"That was all we were trying to do," Jacqui Safra said of his and longtime love Jean Doumanian's decision to sign up as Allen's producers in 1993.
That was the same year Allen was enmeshed in a very public — and very ugly — custody battle with actress Mia Farrow stemming from his affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Allen and Previn have since married.
During his testimony, Allen said his personal problems had nothing to do with his deal with Doumanian and Safra. He said the close friends had been asking for years to make movies with him, and he decided to take them up on their offer after a business disagreement with his old movie studio.
The trio's partnership ended badly — Doumanian and Safra claim they didn't make much money from the seven movies they made together, but Allen's suit charges they skimmed millions from his profits.
The Manhattan Money Mystery got even more muddled with Safra's testimony.
A member of super-rich Safra banking clan, the 54-year-old Encyclopaedia Britannica head detailed some of the innumerable companies he heads, many of which are alleged to have used Allen's money, unbeknownst to the director.
One of those companies, Blanvale Investments, actually now owns the copyrights for the seven movies the trio did together. Allen's lawyer, Michael Zweig, said his client didn't find out about Blanvale's existence until Safra's people told him about it in September of last year - eight years after the company had been set up.
Safra said he didn't bother to tell Allen about the company because "it was a tiny detail."
Safra has so many companies, many of which are located in the Netherlands and British Virgin Islands for tax purposes, that he couldn't even remember all of their names.
When Zweig asked him if he owned a company called Germanco, Safra shrugged, "I don't know."
He also testified that he rarely signs any documents himself, preferring instead to have his many lawyers sign off on all his deals for him.
At one point, Safra sounded almost Clinton-esque - when Zweig asked him if he'd agree that two of the first three films he did with Allen made a profit, he said, "It depends on how you define 'profit.' "