updated 3/18/2004 8:02:31 AM ET 2004-03-18T13:02:31

Prosecutors formally requested indictment of at least 29 suspects in the Parmalat fraud case Thursday, Italian news reports said.

Prosecutors in Milan are seeking to indict Parmalat’s founder and other top officials in the near-collapse of the Italian dairy giant, the ANSA news agency said.

An official at the Milan courthouse, speaking by phone with The Associated Press, confirmed that formal indictment requests were made, but would not say how many people were named.

ANSA said among those prosecutors want indicted are former auditors at Grant Thornton SpA and Deloitte & Touche SpA, and officials of Bank of America Corp.

Both Deloitte & Touche and Bank of America said they had no immediate information about the reported indictment request. Nobody was immediately available for comment at Grant Thornton in London.

The Parmalat scandal exploded Dec. 19 when the company acknowledged that it didn’t have 3.95 billion euros ($5 billion) it had claimed was in a Bank of America account. Soon after, Parmalat went into bankruptcy protection.

An audit ordered after the scandal broke recently put the company’s debt at about $18 billion — eight times more than Parmalat had claimed in September.

In Italy, prosecutors formally ask a judge to indict suspects. The judge can then accept or reject the request, often after hearing evidence and reviewing testimony and documents. The process can take weeks.

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