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BENETTON FILES EXTORTION LAWSUIT

MILAN -- Benetton has brought suit against two men charged with allegedly trying to extort money from the giant retailer.<P>A Benetton spokesman confirmed a case is in progress but declined to comment further on details surrounding the extortion...

MILAN — Benetton has brought suit against two men charged with allegedly trying to extort money from the giant retailer.

A Benetton spokesman confirmed a case is in progress but declined to comment further on details surrounding the extortion allegations. Benetton’s lawyer, Antonio Frachini, was not available for comment, nor were the prosecutor or judge handling the case.

According to Il Gazzettino di Treviso, a local newspaper based in Benetton’s hometown of Treviso, two former Benetton employees threatened to release defaming information about the retailer if it did not pay them $14.1 million (converted from euros at current exchange rates).

The two men accused, Antonio Manzone and Alberto Franco Rovatti, both 70, had worked for a brief period at Benetton many years ago. The men were reported to have schemed to distribute a million flyers in key cities throughout Europe stating Benetton had illicitly acquired stocks and checks from abroad. The two men reportedly contacted Benetton in the first week of March 2000 and demanded $2.8 million immediately.

The Treviso prosecutor’s office, according to the paper, is now deciding whether to proceed with a legal battle or drop the case.