Carreras named in fraud allegation

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The Independent Online
JOSE CARRERAS, the Spanish tenor, faces possible prosecution in Rome for allegedly taking a recital fee that was more than four times the amount officially declared.

Pier Filippo Laviano, the investigating magistrate, has asked for the go-ahead to prosecute the singer, Gian Paolo Cresci, the superintendent of Rome's Opera House, and 21 others for a series of alleged frauds which have helped run up a 35bn lire ( pounds 14.4m) debt in three years and brought the threat of closure.

According to Mr Laviano, Carre ras' fee for a concert at the Rome Opera in 1992 was officially fixed at L30m, the maximum permitted to any singer in Rome, plus L10m travelling expenses. He claims he was paid L130m, the extra L100m being fictitiously said to have been found by a sponsor when it in fact came out of the opera house funds.

Mario Dradi, Carreras' agent in Italy, said the tenor had nothing to do with the affair. 'Anyway,' he added, 'Carreras' international fee, paid in dollars, is much higher than L130m.'

Mr Laviano's allegations, to be examined by the supervising magistrate on 14 March, have precipitated a dramatic denouement in the scandal of the Rome Opera House. The mayor, Francesco Rutelli, backed by a unanimous vote in the city council, which has been wanting to get rid of the superintendent for some time, demanded that Mr Cresci pack his bags and go. 'We cannot tolerate any further delay,' the mayor said. 'We have been patient too long. The accounts of the financial state of the Opera are emerging more brutally each day.'

Mr Cresci declared, with pique, that he had legal contracts but said he would resign in the next few days. Before he could change his mind a new superintendent, Sergio Escobar, was appointed to replace him. Mr Escobar will have a daunting task. The Opera House only has enough money to pay its staff until the summer and, if its finances are not straightened out, it could be forced to close next year.

The accounts allegedly contained items which smacked of practices familiar under the old regime, such as the hiring of three Roman women for public relations jobs already being done by staff, the teaching of English to security staff who had no need of it, trips for singers to North Africa and the unexplained renting and insurance, for L316m, of a number of Persian carpets.