Today's sentencing of Dolce & Gabbana designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to 20 months in jail brings to a close — for now — a long and contentious trial over the fashion house's alleged tax evasion, which is said to total nearly $550 million.
Italian tax authorities first brought charges against the fashion company over five years ago, following the 2004 sale of the house's brands — both Dolce & Gabbana and the now-shuttered D&G — to Gado Srl, a Luxembourg-based company owned by the designers themselves. This, the taxmen argued, was a move designed to avoid high taxes levied on Italian corporations. (That's the case brought by Milanese prosecutors Gaetano Ruta and Laura Pedio at trial. They also argued the brands were sold at well below their true value to avoid further taxes still.)
A judge threw the case out back in 2011 — in alignment with the defendants' lawyers, who both then and in this year's trial asked for a full dismissal of any legal proceedings. Following an appeal filed by Laura Pedio for the prosecution, however, Italy's Supreme Court ruled a court case for tax evasion was warranted after all. Trial proceedings thus began again last December.
Ruling today after months of legal back-and-forth, Judge Antonella Brambilla sided with Ruta and Pedio for the prosecution. She handed down jail sentences to five of the six defendants — including the designers themselves, their finance manager, their accountant, and Dolce's brother Alfonso Dolce. Due to a lack of evidence, the case against a sixth defendant was acquitted. Brambilla's prescribed prison terms fell a little short of those requested by the prosecution, though. While they had asked that the designers be locked up for two-and-a-half years, Dolce and Gabbana themselves are, in her ruling, to serve a jail sentence of one year and eight months.
Both designers — along with the three other high-ranking employees who also received jail sentences in the judge's ruling — are expected to appeal. Reuters notes that the length and complexity of this appeals process means it's "unlikely" they'll actually spend any time imprisoned. (Two appeals against judgements made for the prosecution are allowed before even the Supreme Court weighs in again.)
No Dolce & Gabbana representatives were present at the sentencing this afternoon, nor has anyone from the fashion house made a statement. Gabbana has, however, been busy Instagramming some pretty, close-up photos of flowers in bloom.
Update 6/19: Dolce & Gabbana representatives released a forthright (if slightly confusing) statement, once again refuting the charges and confirming a forthcoming appeal.