MILAN — It took him eight years, but Roberto Cavalli has finally cleared his name with Italy’s tax authorities.

This story first appeared in the May 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Florence Court of Appeal has entirely exonerated the designer of tax fraud charges. On Monday, Cavalli said that on Friday the court found “the facts alleged against [the designer] did not amount to a crime — a complete dismissal in Italian law.”

The accusations date back to 2002, when authorities claimed Cavalli evaded taxes by charging costs of remodeling his luxurious villa in the hills around Florence to the company during the fiscal years 1996 to 2000, which totaled about 5 billion lire, Italy’s pre-euro currency, equivalent to about $3.32 million.

In 2003, the designer rejected a plea bargain offer, vowing to prove his innocence. Roberto Cavalli SpA disputed claims the firm booked the designer’s residential remodeling charges to the company through phony bills and receipts, saying the company commissioned all the work done on the house. The designer and the company he owns always have contended the lavishly furnished 12th-century estate, which includes two swimming pools and a helipad, also serves as the firm’s headquarters and showroom. Cavalli over the years has held special events and product launches at the venue, and several ad campaigns were photographed on the estate and in the villa’s park, which has a view over Florence.

In 2008, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, cleared the designer of tax evasion and a Florentine court’s earlier conviction of him on charges of fiscal evasion, which carried a sentence of 12 months in prison. Prior to that, in March 2006, the Florence court found Cavalli guilty of tax evasion and sentenced him to 14 months in prison, but a legal technicality exempted him from ever serving jail time.

In 2008, the Court of Cassation also turned the case back to the Court of Appeal, demanding it review the facts in order to determine whether a crime had been committed at all. As per Monday’s statement: “The Court of Appeal determined that the only proper end…was complete exoneration, finding that none of the facts alleged against [Cavalli] amounted to a crime,” the company said Monday.

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