Cecchi Gori assets seized

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ROME -- Trouble continued for veteran Italian film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori on Friday, as more than 100 million euros ($154 million) of his property -- including the country's top cinema -- were seized by a Rome tribunal.

The move comes as the 65-year-old producer uses up his last appeal on charges that he transferred assets from his production company before declaring bankruptcy in 2006 in order to escape the grasp of creditors.

Two courts have found that the assets ended up under the control of a Virgin Islands holding company called Jonquille Associated, which is controlled by a Cecchi Gori holding in Luxembourg. Cecchi Gori, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence and is preparing his third and final appeal.

According to legal documents, the tribunal seized ownership of property scattered across Italy, including Rome's storied nine-screen Cinema Adriano, the country's most popular cinema in terms of per-screen revenue. Dozens of other cinemas, buildings and equipment were also taken under custody. The seizure means that the assets cannot be sold or moved until freed from court control.

Cecchi Gori's office declined comment on the case. But the person answering the phone at the Adriano Theater on Friday said it will continue operating as normal.

The cinema will screen comedy "Grande, Gross, e Verdone" (Great, Grand, and Verdone) this weekend, in which actor Carlo Verdone plays three different roles. Other screens will show four films that were among Italy's top five grossing films last weekend.

The news comes just two weeks after the beleaguered Cecchi Gori announced he was seeking 941 million euros ($1.45 billion) in damages from Italy's Communications Authority for rulings it made in connection with Cecchi Gori's sale of two television networks in 2001.

The Oscar-winning producer also announced plans to sell rights to more than 700 films he produced or owns rights to in an effort to raise $60 million, about a fourth of which will go to a new production company he created called New Capital.

Cecchi Gori is best known for producing three Oscar-winning films: "Il Postino" (The Postman), "Mediterraneo" and "La Vita e Bella" (Life Is Beautiful).
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