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Further law firms may be forced to hand over client documents after the Rome office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer handed over papers to Italian state prosecutors in relation to their investigation into high-profile businessman Sergio Cragnotti.
Cragnotti is perhaps best known as the former chairman of football club Lazio. His food empire, Cirio, had stakes in Lazio and food giant Del Monte, among others. Cirio has been in financial difficulties for some time and filed for bankruptcy in 2002.
Freshfields has acted for Cragnotti and his family company only since the beginning of 2003. Cragnotti had previously been advised by a number of firms, including Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom ally Chiomenti, particularly in relation to Lazio.
Freshfields was introduced to the client by local merchant bank Livolsi, which was advising Cirio on financial restructuring.
The investigation into Cragnotti has been brought to the fore because of the investigation into Parmalat. In 1999, Parmalat bought Eurolat, a milk processing company from Cragnotti. Eurolat was one of the companies that triggered the Parmalat investigation after a hole was found in the company’s accounts.
Both had been advised by banker Cesare Geronzi, chairman of Banca di Roma (now part of Capitalia), now under investigation by authorities. The two also shared the same auditors – the Italian arms of Grant Thornton and Deloitte & Touche.