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Designers Dolce & Gabbana protest their innocence

June 24, 2013
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Three days after being sentenced to 20 months in prison for tax avoidance, Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have protested their innocence. "We feel shocked about what's happened," said Stefano Gabbana during an interview with The Telegraph. "But we are relaxed too because we know that we are innocent. We resist and I feel strong.

"But today isn't the time to talk about that – we have a show," he added, referring to the menswear presentation they held at Milan Fashion Week on Sunday. The designers were rocked by more controversy during the finale of the catwalk show when a naked man leapt to the runway. The streaker, who was thought to be of German origin, had planned on making a statement about their prison sentencing, but he was forcibly removed before his motives were revealed. The audience, made up of fashion's elite and celebrities including Barcelona's Lionel Messi, looked on in shock as the drama unfolded.

Thankfully, the incident didn't distract from the designers' collection that had been inspired by heroic imagery taken from Greek mythology. Last week, an Italian court charged the designers with hiding hundreds of millions of euros from the tax authorities, with the judge ruling that the pair had sold their brand to a Luxembourg-based holding company in 2004 to avoid declaring taxes on royalties of about one billion euros. Due to the complexity and length of the appeals process, it is unlikely that they will spend any time in prison. The case dates back to an investigation that began in 2007, when authorities clamped down on tax avoidance after the financial crisis had set in. Charges were brought against the designers, and five other individuals, after their two brands, Dolce & Gabbana and D&G, were sold to Gado Srl. The Guardia di Finanza believed that Gado was a legal body set up to enable the pair to avoid the country's high corporate taxes. It meant that profits from the two labels were taxed abroad and not in Italy, where authorities believed Dolce & Gabbana and D&G were still being managed from. In April 2011, Judge Simone Luerto dismissed charges against them as unsubstantiated. But in November 2011, the Supreme Court of Cassation overturned the ruling and ordered a retrial saying, "tax avoidance, or tax mitigation on an earnings declaration is a criminal offense under the law".

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