Hollywood saga comes to grief with Italian job

HABERER'S most public, most puzzling and exotic disaster came from his connection with two Italian financiers, Giancarlo Parretti and Florio Fiorini. It has landed CL with Hollywood's famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, as well as an embarrassing link to Switzerland's biggest fraudulent bankruptcy.

The story goes back to 1981 when CL, then run by Claude Pierre-Brosolette, bought the Rotterdam Slavenburg bank. The bank turned out to be a can of worms, used for, among other purposes, laundering drug money. CL renamed the bank Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland and cleansed the Augean stables.

In the late 1980s, however, the picture was marred by the financial problems of one of CLBN's biggest clients, Cannon, the production company run by two flamboyant Israeli cousins, Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan. Only one man was prepared to take on the mess: Giancarlo Parretti, an Italian financier with a mysterious background.

Parretti earned CLBN's gratitude by reducing Cannon's debts by dollars 100m through the judicious sale of assets (although he kept the second biggest cinema chain in Britain, formerly owned by Thorn- EMI). The French government stopped him buying Pathe, but this merely encouraged Parretti to go for a bigger prize: MGM, put in play by its then owner, financier Kirk Kerkorian.

Parretti was joined by a compatriot, Florio Fiorini, former finance director of the giant Italian petrochemicals group ENI. Fiorini was a stalwart of the P2 Masonic lodge linked to many of Italy's big financial scandals. Indeed, Fiorini lost his job after it was revealed ENI had lent dollars 50m to ill-fated Roberto Calvi of Banco Ambrosiano.

At first the Italians' dollars 1.3bn bid for MGM was laughed to scorn in Hollywood. But they succeeded with help from their friends at CL. However the MGM treasury was empty - there wasn't even enough money to complete the only two films it had in production.

In March 1991, after a number of embarrassing problems (including a six-figure cheque to Dustin Hoffmann that bounced) CL's head office took direct charge of the MGM account. It took 18 months to get rid of Parretti, and in July last year CL installed a new chairman, and announced a financial restructuring and a revival of the MGM subsidiary United Artists. This is an attempt to transform MGM into a saleable proposition because, under American law, it has to sell within the next three years.

MGM may prove to be salvageable - and CL may get something from its dollars 500m lawsuit against Kerkorian. But it won't from Fiorini's main venture, a Swiss holding company called Sasea, to which the bank had also lent money in the late 1980s.

Sasea's assets were an odd lot. They included flour mills in Yemen and several blocks of rent- controlled flats in Paris, whose value was arbitrarily revalued by Fiorini from pounds 6m to pounds 100m. It was then sold on to a company, United Dutch, controlled by Lord Beaverbrook, a former treasurer of the Conservative Party, who had to declare personal bankruptcy as a result of his links with Sasea.

The Sasea group as a whole was declared fraudulently bankrupt in October 1992, in the biggest single such crash in Swiss financial history, with FFr20bn owing to 3,000 creditors.

The bank has written down its FFr10.6bn loans to Sasea to under FFr1bn, but the case is due to come before a court in Paris. Fiorini has been in jail since October 1992, and his trial could provide further embarrassment.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future