Olivetti workers fear effects of De Benedetti case

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The Independent Online
OLIVETTI trade union leaders yesterday urged Rome magistrates to clear up the case against the company's chairman, Carlo De Benedetti, as quickly as possible, fearing severe repercussions on their already hard-pressed firm.

The 38,000 employees of Italy's biggest computer and electronics manufacturer are alarmed about the impending arrest of Mr De Benedetti, one of Italy's top industrialists. He has not been seen since Rome magistrates on Saturday issued a warrant for his arrest over alleged corruption involving the state postal system. His lawyers have said he is planning to return from the All Saints holiday weekend today and is at the disposal of the magistrates. They are asking that he be questioned as soon as possible.

Justice sources in Rome were yesterday unable to confirm reports of negotiations between his lawyers and the magistrates and stressed that he must give himself up before a time can be fixed.

Gianfranco Moia, a union leader in the Olivetti town of Ivrea, warned that the company's fate could be linked to that of Mr De Benedetti and the case 'could have serious effects on employment . . . the longer it goes on the more serious the effects will be'. The company is approaching 'the point of no return', unless special measures were taken soon, he said.

Mr De Benedetti has already said that the company needed restructuring and cost-cutting and the staff fear 5,000 jobs are already in danger.

Mr De Benedetti's lawyers have pointed out that their client has already made a long, spontaneous confession to the Milan magistrates about bribes paid by Olivetti to political parties in order to secure government contracts. But the sources close to the Rome magistrates, who have since taken over the case, said more alleged kickbacks are involved than those to which he has owned up.

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