[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 22:56 GMT
Parmalat bosses play blame game
A bottle of Parmalat milk
Parmalat is one of Italy's best-known brands
Prosecutors shifted the spotlight onto Italian food giant Parmalat's former finance chief on Monday, as they sought to unravel the firm's tangled finances.

Under questioning, Fausto Tonna has reportedly blamed his own boss, founder Calisto Tanzi, for the massive hole in the firm's books.

The web of offshore firms and fake accounts he is accused of setting up has left the group short of cash.

Parmalat is now set to beg its banks for hundreds of millions in new loans.

Enrico Bondi, the man charged with rescuing the company after its troubles emerged, will this week start a series of meetings with bankers, in search of money to keep its factories running and its 36,000 staff worldwide paid.

I wish you and your families a slow and painful death
Fausto Tonna, ex-Parmalat chief finance officer, to journalists
The company has been teetering on the brink of collapse since a multi-billion euro hole was found in its accounts two weeks ago.

Bond pressures

On Monday Mr Bondi is expected to ask Parmalat's main banks, including Capitalia, Intesa and San Paolo IMI, for 50 million to 100 million euros to pay wages and suppliers, the Italian media reported.

The figure would be well above the loan of around 25 million euros that banks granted Parmalat in December to avoid default on an outstanding bond.

Regulators in Italy and the US are still probing at the role of shell companies, offshore units, and loans used by the now-insolvent food and dairy group to mask its crumbling finances.

Parmalat ex-boss Calisto Tanzi and the company logo
Calisto Tanzi is being detained in prison

There is an 8bn euro (5.7bn; $10bn) hole in the company's accounts, with US market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), calling the scandal a "brazen corporate financial fraud".

Reports say senior officials from the SEC are investigating the way Bank of America and other banks sold billions of euros worth of Parmalat bonds.

At the same time, Italian Serie A football club Parma is also being drawn into the scandal.

Bought by Parmalat more than a decade ago, the club is now planning a shareholders' meeting on 9 January to work out how to cover its losses.

Arrest warrant

Meanwhile, the questioning of former Chief Financial Officer Fausto Tonna continued.

"I wish you and your families a slow and painful death," Mr Tonna snarled at reporters as he was led into the prosecutors' office - his first public statement on the Parmalat affair.

Dairy farmers protest outside a Parmalat office
Parmalat's troubles leave Italian farmers in the lurch
Italian news agency Ansa, as well as the UK's Reuters, reported that Mr Tonna pointed the finger at Calisto Tanzi, saying that the founder of the firm had been the prime mover behind the company's complex finances.

For his part, Mr Tanzi insists that the hole in the firm's finances was hidden by top Parmalat managers of their own accord - although he has earlier admitted diverting 500m euros from Parmalat's funds to finance other parts of the business controlled by his family.

Six Parmalat executives in all, including Mr Tanzi and Mr Tonna, and two outside auditors have been arrested over the collapse of the food group, although none have yet been charged.

A ninth arrest warrant has been issued for Giovanni Bonici, the chairman of Parmalat's Venezuelan operations and head of offshore unit Bonlat.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific