Armani admits paying bribes to taxmen

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The Independent Online
GIORGIO ARMANI, one of Italy's most successful fashion designers, yesterday admitted paying kickbacks after being interrogated by magistrates investigating the bribing of tax officials.

The couturier, who has won worldwide acclaim for his simple but elegant designs, was questioned as part of a sweeping inquiry into payments to tax authorities. He and another of Italy's most famous designers, Gianfranco Ferre - head of the House of Dior - were questioned yesterday according to Milan judicial sources.

Last night Armani's lawyer Oreste Dominoni said: 'He (Armani) had to give in to demands of the auditors to pay a sum of money.' Mr Dominoni refused to comment on reports that the bribe, paid during an audit in 1990, was worth 100 million lire (pounds 40,500).

But he said that Armani was virtually extorted at a time when large tracts of Italian society were deeply corrupt.

Armani, 60, whose fashion empire had a pounds 470m turnover in 1993, is the latest in a series of top designers to have been interrogated over Italy's latest corruption scandal: that of bribes being paid to tax inspectors in return for lenient tax treatment.

Among other fashion figures who have been called in for questioning are Santo Versace, brother of Gianni and the head of Gianni Versace SpA, couturier Krizia, and jewellery designer Gianmaria Buccellati.

This latest interrogation comes just a week before the opening of Milan's ready-to- wear shows, one of the fashion industry's main international events.

Last night Lisa Armstrong, associate editor of Vogue magazine - the British fashion industry 'bible' - said that the involvement of Armani would be a huge shock to the fashion world. 'Armani is one of the most important and most respected designers. An Armani suit is one of the most desirable things you can wear.

'This will have an incredible impact on the collections in Milan. The atmosphere will just be electric.'

Suits are sexy, page 25

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