As investigations continued into what prosecutors believe to be Italy’s biggest-ever fraud, doctors examined Mr Tanzi to see whether he was healthy enough to remain in jail. A Milan judge, Guido Piffer, had ordered an examination before ruling on an application from Mr Tanzi’s lawyers for their client to be put under house arrest. A heart specialist sent by the Tanzi family to supervise the doctors’ visit said afterwards the 65-year-old founder of Parmalat was “very low”.
In a further development, officers of the revenue guard confiscated a second set of documents from the Milan office of Parmalat’s auditors, Deloitte Touche. A first set of papers was taken away two weeks ago, while two executives from another of Parmalat accountants, Grant Thornton, have already been arrested. A spokeswoman for Deloitte, which has audited the consolidated accounts since 1999, described the operation as “routine”.
Parmalat was yesterday reported to be preparing to sell its 1.5% stake in the investment bank MCC back to MCC’s parent, Capitalia, for €22m. It was also reported that Enrico Bondi, the company doctor now running the group, had decided to dispose of its 99% interest in the Serie A football club, Parma.
Mr Tanzi has acknowledged he took some €500m from Parmalat’s coffers to prop up his family’s loss-making travel businesses. But after visiting his client in jail Fabio Belloni, a member of Mr Tanzi’s legal team, said: “There is no hidden treasure and no diversions of funds in the sense of money put in the pocket [or] stashed away somewhere.”
He was reacting to a story in yesterday’s Corriere della Sera suggesting that €3.7bn was paid into the Sanpaolo IMI bank in favour of Parmalat between December 1 and December 4.
The report was sourced to an unnamed senior Parmalat executive who was informed of the transaction, but was unable to explain the origin of the funds.
Corriere della Sera reported that a few days earlier – on November 27 – another attempt was made to deposit an identical amount in the same bank. It said the approach had come from a lawyer representing Luigi Antonio Manieri, the Italian businessman identified by Mr Tanzi as a “white knight” ready to invest a large sum in Parmalat shortly before the discovery of the hole in its accounts.
The newspaper said Sanpaolo IMI refused to open an account for Mr Manieri because the lawyer was unable to explain where the money came from.
Parmalat was placed under the supervision of Mr Bondi after the company acknowledged on December 19 that its Bonlat subsidiary in the Cayman Islands did not have €4bn in a Bank of America account, as it had earlier reported. The bank said a letter confirming the money was forged.
Grant Thornton’s US arm sought to distance itself from its Italian counterpart on Friday, denying any liability in the case and vowing to help uncover facts about the scandal.