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Gucci Caught Up in Spy Scandal

A Gucci Group spokesman confirmed that the Prosecutor?s Office in Florence this week ordered a search of the company?s offices there and in Milan and Rome.

MILAN — Gucci Group has been pulled into one of Italy’s so-called “spy stories” stemming from an investigation of illicit access to the Ministry of Interior’s data bank.

This story first appeared in the October 23, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

A Gucci Group spokesman confirmed that the Prosecutor’s Office in Florence this week ordered a search of the company’s offices there and in Milan and Rome. “The search is a result of the investigation on suspicion of the crime of revelation and use of official secrets,” Gucci said in a statement. The company is “fully collaborating with the authorities,” it added.

For two years, a group of Florentine magistrates has been looking into the work of a number of investigative agencies and their allegedly illegal methods to secure information. One of the seven people arrested so far is Carlo Del Bo, Gucci’s former head of security. Del Bo, who left the company in spring 2007, worked with Luigi Martini, owner of investigative agency Sia, who is also under arrest. Gucci severed ties with Martini last year.

The spokesman said Gucci regularly checks on suppliers and its sales network in its fight against counterfeits. “We have a social responsibility,” said the spokesman. “We want our suppliers to respect the workforce, steering clear of child labor, for example, and to commit to regular tax payments.” Gucci, said the spokesman, was unaware of the methods put in place to obtain this information. The investigation has unearthed the fact that, as many private investigators here are former policemen or tax officers, they may have access to secret state or police information.

“The Gucci brand has taken a leadership position in the industry by obtaining in August 2007 the official certification (SA 8000) for the leather goods and jewelry supply chains,” the company added. “The certification — released by an independent and internationally recognized body, Bureau Veritas — stands for the values of business ethics, respect for human rights, workers’ health and safety and equal opportunities. We strongly believe in these values and all our suppliers have agreed to adhere to the conditions established by the independent body. The respect for these standards is an indispensable condition to continue collaborating with Gucci.”

The arrest of Del Bo is also connected to the investigation of a policeman’s suicide two years ago and to another “spy story” scandal involving wiretaps on numerous peoples’ phones, reportedly including that of Alessandra Facchinetti, Valentino’s former creative director and former head of women’s design at Gucci. As reported in July, the interceptions of phone conversations was discovered in 2006, but were begun 10 years earlier by Giuliano Tavaroli, former chief of security at Italian Telecom, and Marco Mancini, the former number two at the country’s SISMI military intelligence agency. Targets of the illegal domestic surveillance program included politicians, bankers, entrepreneurs, journalists, starlets and soccer players. According to Italian press reports, Facchinetti’s phone conversations were also tapped, although it is unclear for what reasons.