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Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Parmalat executive apologizes to those hit by fraud scandal

AP , Rome

The founder and former CEO of Parmalat apologized to all those who suffered losses in the dairy giant's virtual collapse in a 14 billion euro (US$18.3 billion) fraud scandal and pledged to help prosecutors reconstruct the case.

Looking tired and wan after his latest interrogation, Calisto Tanzi asked pardon through a statement read Saturday by one of his lawyers in Parma, the northern Italian town near company headquarters.

Tanzi "is asking pardon of all those, who, through conduct attributed to him in trying to carry out a plan and an industrial dream, have suffered, suffered damages and financial losses," said lawyer Giampiero Biancolella, saying his client was too worn out to read the statement himself.

Tanzi listened as the statement was read to reporters, standing in the shadows of the entrance to the courtyard of the building where Parma prosecutors are probing the case. He made no comment.

Tens of thousands of investors lost their savings when Parmalat Finanziaria SpA revealed in late 2003 that a 3.95 billion euro (US$4.91 billion) account with Bank of America did not exist. The collapsed Italian dairy giant then went into bankruptcy protection.

The disgraced industrialist is "perfectly aware that pardon can only have moral valence and is ready to recognize his responsibilities and take the consequences," the statement said.

Parma authorities are investigating charges of fraudulent bankruptcy, false accounting and criminal association. In a separate probe of Parmalat, Milan prosecutors have sought indictments of Tanzi and 28 other people in a probe of alleged market rigging and misleading accountants and the Italian stock market watchdog.

Biancolella said Tanzi considered it his duty to collaborate with prosecutors, including helping them "identify those who can make a contribution by reconstructing the facts" fully.

That statement hinted that not all those questioned have told all they know.

A state-appointed turnaround expert, Enrico Bondi, is trying to save Parmalat, which produces juice and dairy products in Italy and abroad. As part of that strategy, lawsuits and recovery actions have begun against dozens of banks.

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