VERDICT DUE FRIDAY IN ITALIAN TAX TRIAL

MILAN — Judge Salvatore Cappelleri said Tuesday he would render a verdict in the corruption trial of some of Italy’s top designers and fashion executives on Friday.
Cappelleri made the announcement after closing statements for the defendants were wrapped up.
As reported, Versace chief executive Santo Versace, Krizia designer and owner Mariuccia Mandelli, Gianfranco Ferre and their business executives are charged with corruption and bribing tax authorities in return for quick, painless audits. They are presenting a unified defense, arguing that corrupt auditors extorted the money.
Last month, prosecutor Elio Ramondini called for 17-month sentences for all the defendants. Should the court agree with Ramondini, it is unlikely the designers and executives would serve prison time. Under Italian criminal law, defendants do not go to jail for sentences shorter than two years. Typically, such sentences are suspended.
Before the trial began last July, Giorgio Armani, Krizia chairman Aldo Pinto and Gerolamo Etro pleaded guilty, without testifying, to the charges of bribing tax officials. They, too, said they were victims of extortion, but took plea bargains to end their cases as soon as possible. In addition to fines, they received suspended prison terms of nine months each.
The trial revolves around sums ranging from $62,000 to $260,000 paid by the fashion houses to tax officials during a series of audits from 1989 to 1991.
In the last of the closing statements, which was delivered Tuesday, Giampiero Biancolella, the defense attorney for Marcello Guido, a consulting accountant for Krizia, argued his client was forced into paying bribes on behalf of Krizia.
“The auditors’ threats were clear and the pressure on Guido was unbearable. This clearly was a case of extortion. Furthermore, the prosecutor has failed to prove that Krizia drew any advantage whatsoever from paying the money,” he said. Closing statements for the other defendants were delivered early this month.

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