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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 14:07 GMT
Trial opens over Parmalat scandal
Parmalat truck, Rome
Parmalat collapsed in 2003 after billions of euros went missing
The main trial over the collapse of Italian food giant Parmalat has opened in the city of Parma.

Parmalat was at the centre of one of Europe's biggest financial scandals when it revealed a 14bn euros ($21.7bn; 10.7bn) hole in its accounts in 2003.

The trial is the biggest of a series of legal actions, involving 55 defendants.

The charges including fraud, false accounting and criminal association, and among the defendants is the group's founder, Calisto Tanzi.

His brother Giovanni Tanzi will also stand trial as well as the company's financial director, Fausto Tonna.

After Friday's hearing, which was dedicated to procedural matters, the trial was adjourned until 6 May.

At its peak, Parmalat employed 36,000 employees in 30 countries, and was Italy's eighth-largest industrial empire.

The collapse in 2003 wiped out the savings of 135,000 Italians.

The company has since recovered from the crisis and last year made a net profit of 674m euros.

It markets dairy products and fruit drinks worldwide, including milk drinks, cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice cream ingredients.

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