Former president of the Banca di Roma Cesare Geronzi was cleared
Friday of bankruptcy charges over food giant Cirio's milk unit Eurolat but former Cirio boss Sergio Cragnotti got five and a half years in jail. Prosecutors had requested a nine-year prison term for Geronzi, formerly one of Italy's top financiers. Geronzi, a former bank executive, had previously received a fouryear jail term for his role in the bankruptcy of Cirio, in turn linked to the 2003 collapse of the Parmalat dairy giant. The former Banca di Roma head was also given a fiveyear term in 2011 for his role in the closure of former Parmalat subsidiary Ciappazzi. Prosecutors had requested a nine-year term for Cragnotti, former Cirio owner and ex chairman of Laziosoccer team, and a five-year sentence for lawyer Riccardo Bianchini Riccardi, a board member, over the affair. Bianchini Riccardi was cleared, like Geronzi. In Italy jail terms do not usually take effect until the appeals process is exhausted, with two appeals granted in each case. Unicredit, one of Italy's largest banks, later took over Banca di Roma and was fined 200 million euros for Banca di Roma's role in the Cirio bankruptcy. Founded in the mid-19th century, Cirio was Italy's oldest food canner. Cirio's collapse was followed by that of Parmalat. Parmalat went under in December 2003 in a false accounting scam that resulted in estimated debts of 14.5 billion euros. The dairy multinational's meltdown left more than 150,000 investors with virtually worthless bonds. After his arrest at the end of 2004, Parmalat's disgraced founder and ex-CEO Calisto Tanzi accused Geronzi of "pressuring" him to buy the Eurolat milk company from Cirio at a price far above its market value. Geronzi denied Tanzi's accusations which he said were "self-serving". However, the operation raised some eyebrows because proceeds from the sale were given directly to Banca di Roma, which not only had lent large sums of capital to Cirio but was also involved in placing both Parmalat and Cirio bonds with small investors.