RIO DE JANEIRO — Eliana Tranchesi, owner of the ultrachic São Paulo fashion emporium Daslu, was convicted late Wednesday of forming a criminal ring, tax evasion and falsification of documents, and was sentenced to 94 years in prison.
This story first appeared in the March 27, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The trial took over two years, from early 2006 to June 2008 and, after deliberating for 10 months, Federal Judge Maria Isabel do Prado, of the 2nd Regional Court in Guarulhos, outside of São Paulo, convicted and sentenced Tranchesi, along with her brother, Antonio Carlos Piva Albuquerque, and their accountant, Celso de Lima. Federal Police imprisoned them early Thursday, according to Federal Police spokeswoman Raquel Victor. Albuquerque also received a 94-year sentence. The accountant’s sentence could not be learned, but four import agents who worked with Daslu received shorter prison terms, according to Tranchesi’s lawyer, Joyce Roysen.
The Federal Police is Brazil’s version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This is ridiculous,” Roysen said of her client’s 94-year sentence Thursday evening. “Under normal circumstances, the crimes she was charged with together would amount to a four-year prison term.”
Roysen plans to file a writ of habeus corpus to release Tranchesi while she appeals the conviction, and said it is unlikely Tranchesi will serve such a long term.
Tranchesi said in a statement, “Arresting me again makes no sense. I do not represent a danger to society.”
Tranchesi was first arrested in her home and detained for 12 hours in July 2005 shortly after 250 Federal Police agents, part of a government sting operation called “Operation Narcissus,” raided her $70 million, 200,000-square-foot fashion emporium, modeled after a Florentine-style villa.
The government was investigating Tranchesi in connection with import-export firms that falsified invoices to show that foreign merchandise, delivered by them to Daslu, cost much less than their real prices. Federal Police said the scheme allowed Daslu to pay less than the 20 to 30 percent average import taxes on fashion imports.
When a new, expanded Daslu opened a month before the police raid, it featured 77 in-store shops and 120 mostly foreign labels. These included Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Christian Dior, Chloé, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Gap and Banana Republic.