By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) - A trial into alleged false accounting at the Italian unit of British Telecom in 2015 and 2016 opened in Milan on Tuesday, with 20 defendants, including two former senior BT executives and the Italian subsidiary itself, facing charges.
In a short hearing on Tuesday morning, the court went through formalities such as verifying the legal representatives of the defendants, and adjourned the case until April 23. None of the defendants was present in the courtroom.
Milan prosecutors allege that 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.
BT took a 530 million pound ($725 million) charge in its accounts in 2017 relating to the alleged false accounting.
All the defendants have always denied any wrongdoing.
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.
Under Italian law, a company can also be prosecuted for offences committed by its managers in its own interest.
"Whilst we remain confident in our defence, given the ongoing proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further," a BT spokesman in London said.
Among the defendants are Richard Cameron, former chief financial officer of BT Global Services, and Corrado Sciolla, formerly BT's head of continental Europe.
Both have denied any wrongdoing.
(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle in London; Editing by Keith Weir, Alexander Smith and Alex Richardson)