Parmalat trial may be fast-tracked

Milan prosecutors moved last week to bring charges against Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi, other members of his family and an inner circle of company executives for their alleged part in one of Europe’s biggest corporate fraud scandals.

After three months of investigations, the prosecutors named 29 individuals and the Italian branches of the Bank of America and accountants Deloitte & Touche and Grant Thornton in a formal request for a fast-track trial for all parties which could begin as early as next month.

If accepted by a Milan judge, the charges, including market-rigging, false auditing and regulatory obstruction, will be the first to be brought after billions of dollars were found to be missing from the bank accounts of the multinational dairy group last December.

The company has since been declared bankrupt and 16 suspects, including Tanzi, are in jail.

Milan Judge Guido Piffer must now assess the prosecutors’ evidence, which reportedly includes 150 interrogation transcripts, and decide whether to open a trial.

The prosecutors submitted the request on the eve of the deadline — 90 days after investigations began — set to allow for an accelerated trial.

The fast-track process means a trial based on limited evidence and reduced sentences if the defendants are convicted.
If the judge demands further evidence and the traditional Italian trial process is applied, many fear those who orchestrated the Parmalat fraud will not be convicted for years.

Investigators said that, in addition to Tanzi, the individuals listed in this week’s request included his son Stefano, his brother Giovanni, former Parmalat finance chief Fausto Tonna and lawyer Giampaolo Zini.

Deloitte said in a statement that it had not been informed about the trial request but was fully available to cooperate. Nan Williams, spokesperson for Grant Thornton International in London, also said the company had not been notified.

“This is obviously a significant development in the Parmalat matter which Grant Thornton International takes very seriously,” she said.

The Bank of America made no comment. — Â

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