After a three-month investigation, the Italian police arrested five people connected with the Dec. 1 fire at the Prato, Tuscany-based garment factory Teresa Moda. The fire, which was triggered by a defective heater, killed seven Chinese laborers.
This story first appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Two Italian businessmen, Giacomo and Massimo Pellegrini, the owners of the warehouse housing Teresa Moda, have been put under house arrest, while the managers of the garment company — Chinese citizens Lin You Lan, Lin Youli and Hu Xiaoping — have been jailed. The arrests follow investigations by the Guardia di Finanza, an Italian police force under the authority of the national minister of economy and finance, and the country’s national police, coordinated by the public prosecutor’s office in Prato.
According to Col. Gino Reolon, commander of Prato’s Guardia di Finanza, all those investigated have been charged with several crimes. These include multiple manslaughter, aiding and abetting illegal immigration, unintentional arson and negligence for work-related injuries.
“The investigations highlighted two major facts,” said Reolon. “The two Italians were aware that wood and plasterboard lofts, which obstructed escape routes, had been built in the warehouse. In addition, Lin You Lan had been managing the warehouse, which housed different companies since 2008, demonstrating that the location hasn’t been compliant with legal standards for a long time.”
Lin You Lan was arrested at Rome’s airport while she was coming back from a trip to China. While in China, she allegedly offered financial compensation to the families of the victims, asking them to avoid any contact with the police.
Reolon also said that Angela Fantechi, the judge in charge of the preliminary investigations in Prato, recently signed an order to sequester another warehouse owned by the Pellegrini brothers. This was valued at about 60,000 euros, or $82,776 at current exchange. The total was calculated by adding the money that the Pellegrini brothers saved by avoiding any work on the Teresa Moda warehouse on Via Toscana to make it a safe environment and the profits derived by renting it out.
The police also found that at the time of the fire, at least 10 people, five of them illegal immigrants, were working and living in the factory. These included the seven workers who died.