Byline: Sara Gay Forden

MILAN — Former Basile chief Luigi (Gigi) Monti was convicted Wednesday of bribing an Italian tax official.
Monti was sentenced to a year and four months in jail, but the judge in the case suspended the sentence.
Investigating magistrate Gherardo Colombo had asked for a 2 1/2 year jail term for Monti, whose lawyers said they would appeal the decision.
The Monti case was part of a larger investigation that erupted last fall, revealing widespread bribery of tax officials by leading Italian fashion houses. As reported, payoffs were allegedly made to corrupt tax men in exchange for lenient treatment during audits between 1988 and 1990.
Some fashion houses, such as Ferré and Armani, admitted to making the payoffs but claimed they were extorted by the officials. A number of tax men have been jailed as a result of the probe.
Monti, who was arrested late last September and detained for several days in the Milan jail for questioning before being released, has claimed innocence all along, saying he knew nothing about the bribe. The $312,000 (400 million lire) payoff was made during a 1990 audit of Basile, which declared bankruptcy last year.
According to Monti, the payoff was made by his former managing director Nicola Di Luccio, who has also been charged — but not yet tried — in the case.
Monti is currently free and won’t have to serve the sentence unless he is arrested on felony charges anytime during the next five years.
In addition to Armani and Ferré, Gianni Versace and Krizia were also implicated in the bribery probe, which splashed across the Italian press just days before the start of the designer shows in Milan last October.
It remains unclear whether the investigations of those fashion houses will result in trials.