The Italian fiscal police searched three Mondomarine offices in Italy this week, removing items from each. It’s the latest development in an investigation into the builder’s business operations.
Mondomarine’s problems became public in March, when it laid off 100 workers. The shipyard’s owners began seeking a buyer by summertime, to avoid being forced into bankruptcy by creditors. One potential deal with a China-based marine-transport and logistics company fell through in June. In September, a court in Monaco, Mondomarine’s sales headquarters, appointed a trustee to oversee creditors’ claims.
According to newspaper reports this week, customers also submitted complaints to the public prosecutor’s office in Savona, Italy. Savona is Mondomarine’s construction headquarters. The clients allege to have been scammed. Therefore, the prosecutor ordered a search of the Savona office on December 13. The prosecutor additionally ordered searches the same day of offices in Pisa, where Cantieri di Pisa is located, and Milan. The financial police took documents from the premises. They did not reveal what those documents were, however.
Regardless, the prosecutor is investigating allegations related to fraud, false accounting, and abuse of credit stemming from invoicing for non-existent transactions. The office is further investigating claims of diversion of funds from company accounts. One media outlet, La Stampa, states that Mondomarine’s shareholders suspected improper accounting, too, hiring Price Waterhouse Coopers to review records. The accounting firm reportedly turned over its findings to the prosecutor as well.
All of this comes on the heels of what might still save the shipyard. Palumbo Group, which owns ISA Yachts and Columbus Yachts, submitted a binding agreement to a bankruptcy court to rent the facilities for six months. If accepted, it would result in a judicial liquidation of Mondomarine, and allow Palumbo Group to keep operations running. Acceptance is crucial, since the state-owned land is up for lease renewal for another four years.
The court should rule early next week. Among other things, it needs the unions to agree to Palumbo Group’s offer to take on employees. Palumbo wants to hire nine workers for the six-month period, then hire the remaining 52 after that. Barring a better offer, the court will examine whether the plan will result in progress.