- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

ROME (AP) — Confirming fears of investigators, a new audit of Parmalat found that the dairy conglomerate’s debt was about $15.6 billion higher — more than seven times higher — than it reported in the fall, months before the huge fraud scandal erupted.

The audit, ordered by Parmalat’s court-appointed administrator and released yesterday, found that according to company accounts, net debt stood at $17.9 billion for the nine-month period ended Sept. 30 and not at the $2.25 billion that Parmalat had reported.

The latest debt figure was largely in line with estimates cited by some investigators and economic observers in the early weeks of the scandal.

Also yesterday, investigating magistrates questioned Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi in a Milan prison. Mr. Tanzi is one of 10 persons jailed as investigators look into the case.

The scandal broke in December after the company admitted that it did not have a nearly $5 billion account with Bank of America, as Parmalat had stated in September. Bank of America has said that the letter testifying to the account was a forgery.

PriceWaterhouse Coopers did the fresh audit.

Parmalat Finanziaria SpA said the figures released yesterday come from a draft report and are “subject to change.”

But it said some of the figures were being released in agreement with Italy’s industry minister to provide the Milan stock market with “timely information.”

“PWC’s report highlights significant differences compared to the figures reported in the group’s consolidated financial statement on Dec. 31, 2002, and in the statement on Sept. 30,” Parmalat stated.

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