Italian police on Tuesday arrested the son and a daughter of jailed Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi in a widening probe into Europe’s largest white-collar crime.
Stefano Tanzi, president of the soccer club owned by Parmalat, also sat on the board of Parmalat Finanziaria, the holding company of the failed food group. Stefano's elder sister, Francesca Tanzi, headed the Tanzi family's tourism business Parmatour. The siblings, who deny wrongdoing, were part of a roundup of seven others, including Tanzi’s brother Giovanni, another Parmalat Finanziaria board member.
The Tanzi children had avoided close scrutiny in the case since their father maintains that they had no connection to the massive fraud, which left Parmalat more than $17.9 billion in debt. However, Tanzi acknowledged from the beginning that money was diverted to family interests where his children held top jobs, leaving many to wonder how Stefano and Francesca could be in the dark, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In an interview with state Italian television RAI last month, Francesca Tanzi said she never was involved in the finances of Parmatour, focusing instead on the product side of the business.
At least one former executive disagrees. Fausto Tonna, a former Parmalat chief financial officer, told investigators twice last month that Francesca was well aware of the finances. "Francesca Tanzi saw that the money was coming in from Parmalat and then used it to pay for hotels, resorts and other tour operators," Tonna said in a Jan. 16 interrogation, according to a transcript seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Prosecutors suspect Stefano Tanzi had been aware of the state of Parmalat’s finances for some time. The siblings are suspected of fraudulent bankruptcy and criminal association, said Maurizio Raponi of the Bologna tax police.