Parretti flees U.S. before sentencing

Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, who was to be sentenced today in Wilmington, Del., for perjury and evidence tampering during a 1991 trial that cost him control of MGM Studios, has fled the United States.

Delaware prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Parretti on Friday after learning he had left the country, an alleged violation of bail terms.

Parretti’s precise whereabouts currently are unknown, but he is believed to be in hiding in the vicinity of his native Orvieto in Umbria. He faces charges in the U.S., Italy and France.

“I will return to the U.S.A. only when I have concluded my case with the Italian courts,” Parretti said in a statement released by his Italian lawyer Manlio Morcella.

“At present I am preparing my defense for the trials that will begin in January here in Italy; next week I will find a way to publicly explain my motives and my choices,” Parretti added.

Morcella disputed Delaware prosecutors’ contention that Parretti had to remain in the U.S.

The Oct. 3 bail agreement “doesn’t forbid him to leave American soil and at the same time doesn’t permit the American prosecutor’s office to try him in absentia if he has been the object of legal action either by the Italian government or the United States,” the Italian news agency AGI quoted Morcella as saying.

“For these reasons, we maintain that there was no violation of the accord,” Morcella said. The report did not address specifically whether he would have Parretti in court for his sentencing today.

Morcella also claimed Parretti’s return home was dictated less by the impending U.S. sentence than by his compliance in facing the outstanding charges being brought against him in Italy, and by concern over the poor health of his parents.

Parretti reportedly has less to fear from the U.S. justice system than from the French courts. He is believed to be delaying making his whereabouts known until assurance is given that he will not be extradited to France.

Parretti lost control of MGM when the bank that financed his $1.3 billion purchase in 1990 seized the studio, following claims that Parretti defaulted on loans and grossly mismanaged MGM.

Credit Lyonnais of France had sued Parretti in 1991, claiming the financier continued to exert day-to-day control over MGM after agreeing to relinquish it to the bank. The court ruled in the bank’s favor.

Recently, Credit Lyonnais sold the studio to a group including Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire who originally sold it to Parretti.

In early October, Parretti was found guilty of perjury and tampering with evidence in the 1991 case. Parretti, who faced up to 10 years in prison, remained free on bail after a state jury convicted him. He was scheduled for sentencing on Monday.

Parretti still has a lawsuit pending in Los Angeles against Credit Lyonnais, accusing the bank of conspiring to seize control of the studio from him. That lawsuit had been scheduled for trial in March.

While there presently is no official warrant from Italian police for Parretti’s arrest, authorities are reportedly on his trail.

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