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Parmalat employee dies in bridge plunge

An employee in Parmalat's finance department fell to his death from a bridge on Friday in what police said was suicide.
/ Source: Financial Times

An employee in Parmalat's finance department fell to his death from a bridge on Friday in what police said was suicide. 

A source familiar with the investigation said Alessandro Bassi worked with two former finance directors of the food group, Fausto Tonna and Luciano Del Soldato, both of whom are among 11 people under arrest. 

Meanwhile, Milan magistrates have quizzed Calisto Tanzi, Parmalat's former chairman, at his hospital bedside as Deutsche Bank became the latest foreign institution to be caught up in the inquiry into fraud at the collapsed food group. 

Mr Tanzi, 65, was moved to Milan's Fatebenefratelli hospital late on Thursday from San Vittore prison after complaining of tingling in his arms, a possible cardiac symptom. His lawyers have consistently claimed that he has suffered ill health since his arrest on Dec. 27, and that he has had heart by-pass surgery. 

Doctors allowed three investigators to resume their questioning at the hospital. 

Deutsche Bank has confirmed that Italian finance police have searched its Milan offices in connection with the inquiry. A spokesman said the bank was "co-operating with all relevant authorities in Italy". 

The search follows similar police visits and document seizures at the Milan offices of Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank, Nextra, the Italian fund manager which is part of Banca Intesa, Italy's biggest lender, and Standard & Poor's, the rating agency. 

Francesco Greco, the Milan magistrate leading the investigation, clarified that neither Deutsche nor any other foreign bank was under official investigation. 

Deutsche Bank led a €350m ($440m) bond issue for Parmalat last September, just over two months before the disastrous state of the food company's finances became public. 

By the time the scandal broke, the bank had also accumulated a 5 per cent holding in Parmalat. 

Separately, Spanish bank Santander Central Hispano revealed it had suffered an €87m exposure to Parmalat, but made provision in its 2003 accounts. The risks were split between Parmalat's parent company in Italy and units in Brazil and Portugal. 

Italian magistrates have said that Parmalat deposited €250m in SCH's Cayman Islands subsidiary, though the funds have since been transferred from the account. A SCH spokesman said Italian officials had yet to contact the bank.