RPT-BT Italy trial postponed due to faulty air conditioning

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MILAN, June 23 (Reuters) - A trial into alleged false accounting at the Italian unit of British Telecom was postponed on Wednesday after the courtroom’s air conditioning broke down.

The case is being heard in a high-security courtroom on the outskirts of Italy’s financial capital, usually chosen for Mafia trials but in use now to comply with coronavirus restrictions.

“The trial is postponed to September 10 due to the lack of air conditioning and sound recording equipment today,” the lead judge Flores Giulia Tanga told dozens of lawyers, who had their court robes draped over their shoulders because of the heat.

None of the defendants were present in the courtroom.

Judge Tanga set a date for four more hearings between now and the end of the year.

“From January we will be able to intensify the hearings with a view to completing the trial by June 2022,” she added.

Milan prosecutors allege that between 2015 and 2016 a network of BT Italy employees inflated revenues, faked contract renewals and invoices and invented bogus supplier transactions in order to disguise the unit’s true financial performance.

There are 20 defendants, including two former senior BT executives and the Italian subsidiary itself. All the accused, including BT Italy, have denied any wrongdoing.

BT took a 530 million pound ($725 million) charge in its accounts in 2017 relating to the alleged false accounting.

Under Italian law, a company can also be prosecuted for offences committed by its managers in its own interest. (Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Editing by Crispian Balmer)