MILAN — Tonino Perna, founder and former chairman and chief executive officer of the IT Holding SpA group, has been released from jail.
This story first appeared in the January 27, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The entrepreneur was arrested earlier this month on charges of criminal bankruptcy and tax evasion. Following Perna’s arrest in Isernia, Italy, where IT Holding’s former manufacturing arm Ittierre SpA is based, the executive’s lawyer, Marco Franco, appealed for his release and the unfreezing of his personal assets, including villas in Rome, Capri and Sardinia, valued at around 20 million euros, or $25.4 million.
According to a legal source, Perna was jailed as a precaution to avoid his tampering with evidence and the recurrence of crime, and was released because the judge who reexamined the verdict stated there was “no such risk” and annulled the previous decision. Perna was questioned by police earlier this month and the release does not mean he has been cleared, as a trial appears to be the next likely step. No court date has been set.
Perna is accused of using 61 million euros, or $77.6 million, of funds meant for IT Holding for other purposes, including allegedly for his personal real estate.
According to a well-placed source, the line of defense presented by Perna’s lawyer aims to show how circumstances beyond Perna’s control were responsible for IT Holding going bankrupt and that the charges are “unfounded.” Franco also means to prove that the funds were “moved within the same group,” and not for Perna’s personal gain and that his actions were always in the interest of the company.
According to a statement by the Court of Isernia, the investigations highlighted the “particular relevance of PA Investment,” which is headquartered in Luxembourg and of which Perna was chairman. According to the court, PA Investment, which controlled IT Holding through a 60 to 70 percent shareholding, was based in that country “to enjoy fiscal advantages” and is described as “a family safe to draw from for liquidity, even for purposes extraneous to those of the company.”
IT Holding went public in 1997 and was once one of Italy’s fastest-growing fashion firms, owning Ittierre, Gianfranco Ferré and Malo, among other brands. It also produced secondary lines for the likes of Versace, Trussardi, Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana. Following two years of government-backed bankruptcy protection, initiated in 2009, Ittierre was sold to Albisetti, and Ferré and Malo now operate under new owners, Paris Group and Evante, respectively.