MILAN — The trial against the three Chinese managers of the Teresa Moda garment factory in Prato, Tuscany, that burned last December, causing the death of seven workers, is underway. In a series of public hearings, the accused — who face reckless homicide charges – acknowledged their awareness of the factory’s conditions, and the fact that some of its employees were in Italy without working papers, said their lawyer Gabriele Zanobini.

He confirmed that on Monday [Oct. 27], Lin You Lan, owner of the business, assumed primary responsibility for the tragedy over her sister, Lin You Li, and brother-in-law, Hu Xiaoping. She also implicated the owners of the warehouse that housed Teresa Moda, brothers Massimo and Giacomo Pellegrini, noting that they were perfectly aware of what went on inside, and had on occasion inspected the factory’s dormitories.

In addition, You Lan said Prato city representatives had visited Teresa Moda in 2013 to determine what waste taxes the business owed — an affirmation sure to make local officials squirm.

Zanobini said the next hearings were slated for Nov. 3 and 24, and Dec. 1. Sentencing is expected either Dec. 15 or 22, because the defendants opted to pursue an abbreviated trial. “I want it to be clear that in addition to the culpability of the Chinese, the evidence points to the culpability of Italians,” Zanobini said.

Massimo and Giacomo Pellegrini, who were placed under house arrest earlier this year, will face trial separately from the Chinese. Since they did not seek abbreviated proceedings, their trial is likely to drag out much longer, according to Zanobini.

The complicity of some Chinese and Italians in illegal activity Prato’s textile and ready-to-wear sector has been the bane of the industry. As local trade association leaders have fought to preserve Prato’s rich fashion tradition in a globalized market, and politicians have sought to integrate an increasingly international community, they’ve also had to contend with the numerous sweatshops operating under the city’s radar.

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