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TI loses its Sparkle; Scaglia taken into custody

1 Mar 2010

As a EUR2 billion (USD2.7 billion) money laundering and tax evasion scandal rips across Italy’s corporate sector, incumbent telco Telecom Italia (TI) has been forced to delay the release of its annual results after being implicated in proceedings when authorities seized EUR300 million from its Sparkle subsidiary. Rival telco Fastweb has also been tarred by investigation when one of its founders, Silvio Scaglia, was detained for questioning over the affair. Investigators say the alleged fraud involved services provided by Fastweb and Sparkle, the wholesale voice and broadband division of TI, to offshore companies for which invoices were issued allegedly to launder money and evade tax. The case is believed to be connected with the ‘Ndrangheta, or the Calabrian Mafia. Both telcos have moved quickly to distance themselves from the scandal, with TI describing itself as ‘the damaged party’ in the affair. A spokeswoman for Fastweb said: ‘It must be very clear that Fastweb is not involved with anything vaguely associated with the Mafia.’ While the company’s CEO, Stefano Parisi, added: ‘To be associated with a monumental fraud involving money-laundering damages our activity and our reputation.’

TI said the authorities had seized the Sparkle money ‘as a precautionary measure,’ with the amount corresponding to an ‘alleged tax credit illegally accrued’ in 2005-2007. The prosecutor’s office has also sought to ‘prohibit T.I. Sparkle from all business activity’ and, as with Fastweb, is seeking to appoint an administrative receiver. TI says it will now announce its financial and operating results for the twelve months ended 31 December 2009 on 25 March.

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