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Dolce, Gabbana Trial to Proceed

Prosecutor Gaetano Ruta has lined up 15 witnesses to testify in the trial, which has its first hearing on Jan. 30.

MILAN — The Dolce and Gabbana trial will go on.

On Friday, judge Antonella Brambilla rejected the objections presented by the lawyer acting for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, seeking to dismiss tax-evasion charges against the designers and several of their business associates.

Brambilla scheduled the first three dates of the hearings in the new year, on Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and Feb. 20.

Witnesses from the Guardia di Finanza, an Italian police force under the authority of the national minister of economy and finance, and the Agenzia Delle Entrate, the country’s revenue service, will be asked to testify during those first three hearings.

The request to overrule all the judicial documents and procedures against the designers, who are charged with omitted and unfaithful earnings declarations, was made during the first hearing of the trial, in a Milan courthouse on Dec. 3.

After the hearing Friday, the designers’ lawyer Massimo Dinoia was unfazed by the judge’s decision to overrule the objections he had laid out, and said he was “calm” about the final outcome of the trial. He once again said the tax authorities made an abstract and hypothetical calculation of the sum related to the 2004 sale of the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G brands to the designers’ Luxembourg-based holding company Gado Srl.

“There is no foundation to the case,” said Dinoia.

Prosecutor Gaetano Ruta has lined up 15 witnesses to testify in the trial. The designers and the other defendants could also be questioned during the trial, but they are not obliged to and can delegate their lawyers. None of the defendants attended either hearing.

Three high-profile fiscal consultants have been tapped to provide evidence in the defendants’ case, according to sources.

The designers were originally absolved of the claims by a lower court in April 2011, but the Italian Supreme Court in November overturned that decision, saying that tax avoidance, or tax mitigation, on an earnings declaration is a criminal offense under the law.

Following investigations that began in 2008, initiated by the Guardia di Finanza, both designers were charged with alleged tax evasion totaling 416 million euros, or $540 million at current exchange, related to the sale of the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G brands to Gado Srl. The Italian tax police reportedly consider Gado essentially a legal entity used to avoid higher corporate taxes in Italy.

A separate criminal probe into supposed tax irregularities at the Dolce & Gabbana Group was part of the case dismissed in April. Those accusations address unpaid taxes of 200 million euros, or $258.7 million.

In April 2011, deeming there was no foundation for a trial, judge Simone Luerti dismissed the charges against Dolce and Gabbana and five other defendants, including Dolce’s brother and board member, Alfonso Dolce, and managing director and board member Cristiana Ruella. That ruling was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court in November.