By  on September 22, 1994

MILAN -- Mariuccia Mandelli of Krizia has admitted to investigating magistrates here that she paid off officials of the Guardia di Finanza in exchange for a favorable tax audit of her company, her lawyer said Wednesday.

The bribe, which the lawyer said Mandelli felt pressured to pay, was a reported $260,000 (300 million lire) at current exchange rates, but neither Mandelli nor Krizia has been charged in the case, which is part of a major probe of corruption in the Guardia -- Italy's fiscal police.

Jeweler Gian Maria Buccellati has already been charged with corruption for paying a bribe of $64,000 (100 million lire) to the tax police, his lawyer, Giuseppe Pezzotta, confirmed Wednesday.

Buccellati confessed to the magistrates that he had made the payoff, Pezzotta said.

Courthouse sources said a senior political figure who had already been questioned by judges recently came back to court to admit he had also paid kickbacks on behalf of an Italian designer, although it could not be learned who the designer was.

"They don't want to release any names because they're afraid those involved will skip town," said one source.

Colonel Ugo Marchetti of the Guardia, who is heading the investigation with the magistrates, said he couldn't comment on whether other fashion companies are involved in the probe.

"There is a lot going on right now. It would be premature to comment, although perhaps in a few days things will be clearer," he said.

As reported, the magistrates are looking into company audits that took place between 1986 and 1993, seeking evidence that tax officials solicited bribes to overlook fiscal irregularities.

Santo Versace, chief executive of the Versace fashion house, was interrogated by the magistrates Monday, and the widening probe now has the rest of the fashion community here holding its breath in anticipation of who might be next.

Mandelli voluntarily approached the magistrates about 10 days ago when she heard that the investigation was about to target the fashion industry, according to Mario Scamoni, Krizia's lawyer.

"When Mrs. Mandelli heard that the magistrates had started reviewing cases involving the fashion sector, she decided to go to them because she had an episode to recount," said Scamoni, who noted that the designer met with magistrate Antonio Di Pietro.

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