Calisto Tanzi – the founder and one-time chief executive of giant Italian food producer Parmalat – today begins a ten-year jail term for misleading investors before the colossal collapse of his dairy empire in 2003.
Tanzi was convicted last night of market-rigging, false accounting and obstructing market oversight. He had built the company up from scratch, starting with small-scale pasteurisation facilities, in 1961, aged 22.
The listed company, which for many years bank-rolled the prominent Italian football club Parma FC, as well as local tourism and other sporting ventures, went under with 14 billion euros of debt five years ago.
Around 100,000 private investors reportedly lost out.
The company is now operational again, as of 2005, after the trademark was saved under special judiciary powers by the Italian state. It employs circa 35,000, has 140 production centres worldwide and has now been reinstated as Italy’s leading food producer.
The BBC reports that 40,000 investors are seeking compensation for losses incurred due to the fraud.
Seven other people, including Bank of America officials who were accused of assisting Tanzi in the fiasco, were cleared.
Tanzi now faces a separate trial for corporate bankruptcy in Parma.