Founder of Parmalat comes to court

Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi, and two financial institutions face a Milan judge on Wednesday in the first major trial over the dairy group's collapse in December 2003.

The executives were sent to trial in June after eight months of preliminary hearings, on charges including market-rigging, false auditing and of hindering the work of regulators.

The Italian office of auditors Deloitte & Touche and Grant Thornton's former Italian unit were also charged with helping Parmalat to mislead investors.

Tanzi's lawyers have submitted a long list of witnesses to Judge Luisa Ponti, including the chairmen of banks such as Capitalia and Mediobanca, and representatives of market regulator Consob and the Bank of Italy.

But unexpectedly, the lawyers also asked "all the civil parties to the case" to testify meaning thousands of bondholders who lost their savings in the Parmalat crash could appear as witnesses.

The Financial Times wrote on Wednesday lawyers could also ask for the trial to be moved to Parma, near Parmalat's headquarters, where there is a wider investigation. Such a move could delay proceedings by months.

Bank of America's Italian office will stand trial in Milan as a civil party. It has not been sent to trial for any administrative responsibility in the case, reports Reuters.

According to Forbes, another 18 defendants were in the dock in relation to the group's bankruptcy.

The trial was adjourned to Dec 2 and is expected to continue piecemeal.

A third hearing is scheduled Dec 6 and another Dec 19.

A larger trial concerning 71 people, including Tanzi, is expected to be held in Parma, and concerns alleged fraudulent bankruptcy, false accounting, criminal conspiracy and providing false information.

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