Oscar-winning film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori whose credits include Life is Beautiful and Cinema Paradiso is behind bars in at Rome's Regina Coeli prison after he was arrested late in the afternoon Tuesday as he returned to his Palazzo Borghese residence in the center of Rome.
A spokesperson for Cecchi Gori told ScreenDaily.com they were totally 'stunned' by the unexpected arrest but said he could not elaborate on the motive, except to say the producer was to be interrogated regarding on-going unresolved legal difficulties.
Italian dailies are reporting that the arrest is linked to the 'fraudulent' bankruptcy - of Safin Cinematografica to the value of $38.8m (Euros 25ml). Safin is the holding company for Cecchi Gori's cash-rich exhibition chain, and linked to his Finmavi group which was declared bankrupt October 2006.
Safin, too, was declared bankrupt by a Rome judge last February, La Repubblica reported.
Cecchi Gori has long maintained his innocence and that he was the victim of a 'complotto' - the Italian word for 'set up' -when his legal troubles began in the 1990s. One of the low points in the producer's legal woes was being placed under house arrest in 2002 while being investigated for the fraud charges around the collapse of his soccer club Fiorentina.
The exhibition chain - which has been seized - extends from Florence, Genoa, Bari and Rome and includes the one-time mogul's flagship Adriano multiplex in the heart of Rome, which Cecchi Gori has specifically appealed to maintain.
Italian daily La Repubblica reports that the Rome court's motivation for putting the mogul behind bars focuses on an investigation of the illegal withdraw of funds $17m (Euros 11m) and the creation of false companies to feed monies back into other ailing companies within the Cecchi Gori Group.
Cecchi Gori's lawyers include bankruptcy and corruption specialists have claimed that they can demonstrate the group's actions have been 'legal' and that they will demonstrate this in court. Cecchi Gori has often said he is willing to negotiate with prosecutors.
On a professional level, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, who inherited his cinema empire from his father, Mario Cecchi Gori, has long vowed a come back. Earlier this year he set up the production company New Capitol Film. He also had a hit this year at the Italian box office with a film he developed after acquiring the book rights for Scusa ma ti chiamo amore, that was produced by Cecchi Gori with Medusa Film (the latter distributed) and which has ranked third best earner for the first five months of 2008 earning $19.5m (Euros 12.6m).