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Italy court upholds 16-year jail term for Concordia captain

Florence's appeals court on Tuesday upheld the 16-year jail term for Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank off Italy in 2012 leaving 32 people dead.

Italy court upholds 16-year jail term for Concordia captain
Florence's appeals court on Tuesday upheld the 16-year jail term for Francesco Schettino. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Schettino was not in court when the verdict was read out by presiding judge Grazia D'Onofrio shortly after 8:30pm (1830 GMT).

He will not be jailed immediately pending a possible further appeal and Italy's crammed jails and generous parole system mean it is unlikely he will ever serve anything like 16 years in jail.

Schettino was sentenced in February 2015 to 16 years and one month in prison after a judge ruled that his recklessness was to blame for the fate of the giant ship, which struck underwater rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

He was convicted of multiple manslaughter, causing a maritime accident and abandoning ship before all passengers and crew had been evacuated, earning him the nickname “Captain Coward” in the press.

The violation of the ancient code of the sea which states a captain must be the last man off a sinking ship only accounted for one year of the sentence handed down by a three-judge panel in the Tuscan town of Grosseto.

During the first, 19-month trial, Schettino was accused of showing off when he steered the ship too close to the island while entertaining a female friend.

The ship had been carrying more than 4,200 people, including 3,200 tourists. The bodies of two of the victims have never been found.

Schettino's lawyers had insisted the accident and its deadly consequences were primarily due to organisational failings for which the ship's owner, Costa Crociere, its Indonesian helmsman and the Italian coastguard should have shared the blame.

They also argued that it was not the collision, but rather the chaos that ensued due to the ship losing power that was the direct cause of the deaths. Schettino could not be blamed for the mechanical failures, they said.

Costa Crociere avoided potential criminal charges by accepting partial responsibility and agreeing to pay a €1 million ($1.2 million) fine.

Five of its employees received non-custodial sentences after concluding plea bargains early in the investigation.

They included the ship's Indonesian helmsman, who could have averted the disaster but did not understand an order given by Schettino to change course just before the collision.

The ex-captain's lawyer said he would have liked the man at the helm to be questioned further “but he cannot be found, he has disappeared into thin air”.

Survivors who rejected Costa's initial compensation offer and became civil parties in the Schettino case were awarded an average of €30,000 each.

Among those awarded a payout were Domnica Cemortan, the blonde Moldovan dancer with whom Schettino had dinner just before the ship hit the rocks.

On top of his original prison term, Schettino was banned from public office for life and from working as a ship captain for five years.

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FASHION

Italian fashion designer Smalto dies at 87

Italian designer Francesco Smalto, who as one of the stars of the men's fashion industry clothed princes, heads of state and sporting icons, has died in Morocco aged 87.

Italian fashion designer Smalto dies at 87
A picture of Italian fashion designer Franceso Smalto (L), who died in Marrakech, aged 87, taken in Paris in 1993. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP

The "creative visionary" provided men with "an allure and unique style" his fashion house said in a statement on Monday, adding that Smalto had died in the night from Saturday to Sunday in a Marrakech hotel.

Smalto enjoyed a lengthy and successful career but his image took a tumble in 1995 when he admitted in court that he had provided call girls as well as suits to then Gabonese president Omar Bongo.

For that he was handed a 15-month suspended sentence and a hefty fine.

Smalto was born in the southern Italian region of Calabria in 1927 and showed a precocious talent for custom-made clothes, creating his first suit at the age of 14 for a friend.

But it was in the fashion capital Paris that he dreamed of forging his career and his fashion house went on to provide the French football team with its formal suits for last year's world cup finals in Brazil.

His early years in the fashion world saw apprenticeships at Parisian tailors such as Cristiani and Camps as well as with Harris in New York, who provided suits for President John F. Kennedy.

In 1962 Smalto created his own brand, installing himself in a chic part of the French capital and rapidly building a reputation for clothes which were comfortable and expertly tailored.

Among his celebrity clients were French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, crooner Charles Aznavour and Morocco's late king Hassan II, the father of the current monarch.

Smalto retired in 2001, selling his business on to the Alliance Designers company.

Korean stylist Youn Chong Bak, who became the Smalto fashion house's artistic director in 2007, mourned the loss of "the master and an extraordinary person."

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