By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) - A manager at the centre of investigations into an accounting scandal at British Telecom's Italian business has been awarded almost 1.8 million euros (£1.6 million) in damages for wrongful dismissal, three legal sources said.
Gianluca Cimini was fired for disciplinary reasons last year, months before the phone company filed a criminal complaint accusing him of grave violations of corporate governance. The accusations arose from its investigation of alleged accounting fraud that cost the firm 530 million pounds.
An Italian labour tribunal ruled that the manager's dismissal was both "illegitimate" and "unfounded", one source said, quoting the judge's summary of his decision.
Full reasons for the ruling, which was made on Wednesday, will be issued within 15 days.
"We're extremely disappointed with this decision," a BT spokesman said in an email, adding that the firm would not comment further until the full judgement was available.
BT can appeal the ruling but must immediately pay the damages, which can only be recouped if the decision is overturned. It was also ordered to pay Cimini's legal fees.
Cimini, formerly BT Italy CEO, and several other former top managers remain under investigation by Italian prosecutors on allegations of alleged fraud. The civil case involving Cimini is separate from the criminal investigation.
All the accused have always denied any wrongdoing.
Cimini's lawyer, Angelo Zambelli, confirmed the wrongful dismissal ruling.
"That's a courageous sentence which leaves us fully satisfied and which I believe will reinstate Mr Cimini's reputation and professional decorum that was taken away from him a year ago," Zambelli said.
The accounting scandal surfaced late last year when BT Group said it had discovered financial irregularities at its Italy unit. In January, it characterised it as improper accounting and took a write-down of around 530 million pounds.
BT first suspended and later fired Cimini and some other managers late last year after an internal inquiry into bullying.
In the criminal complaint filed in March, BT accused several former Italy executives, including Cimini, and other employees of breaking company rules and unlawful conduct.
In Cimini's case, BT alleges he was responsible for breaking corporate governance rules in relation to contracts and suppliers, and for using intimidatory behaviour when dealing with staff.
(Writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Keith Weir)