Grant Thornton Proclaims Its Innocence in Parmalat Scandal

Grant Thornton’s Italian unit contends it is the victim of fraud in the multi-billion-euro scandal surrounding Parmalat, Italy’s biggest food maker.

Parmalat, a household name in Europe and the No. 3 cookie maker in the U.S., filed for bankruptcy protection last week as a fraud investigation widened and the hole in Parmalat’s accounts is reported to be more than 10 billion euros, according to Reuters.

One key figure is founder Calisto Tanzi, who was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of market rigging and false auditing. The order by investigators that led to his arrest stated that Tanzi had “diverted in his favor and to companies which are not part of the (Parmalat) group the sum of about 800 million,” Reuters reported.

The scandal blew apart two weeks ago. That’s when Parmalat revealed that a document supposedly certifying that Bank of America held 3.95 billion euros for Parmalat’s offshore unit Bonlat was declared false by the bank.

Italian prosecutors said that a scanning machine had been used to forge the bank documents, on Bank of America letterhead, which Grant Thornton used to certify Bonlat’s 2002 accounts.

“While we are not in a position to confirm the accuracy of those comments, it does appear that Grant Thornton SpA and others may have been the victim of a fraud committed by others,” the firm said in a Dec. 23 statement. Grant Thornton member firms operate as separate legal entities worldwide.

“Grant Thornton SpA vigorously reconfirms that it acted correctly and that its audit of Bonlat Financing Corporation, a subsidiary of Parmalat, was conducted in full compliance with appropriate, current auditing standards.”

Bank of America has already filed a criminal complaint in Italy in connection with the Parmalat case. About 20 current and former Parmalat executives and outside auditors are under investigation for fraud, false accounting and market rigging, Reuters reported.

“The Grant Thornton international organisation and Grant Thornton's member firm in Italy (Grant Thornton SpA) take any matters of this nature very seriously indeed, and will continue to help the Italian authorities in any investigations they may pursue,” the statement said. The full statement can be found at http://www.gti.org/

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