The principal criminal trial following the collapse of Italian dairy group Parmalat in 2003 has opened today (14 March) in Parma.

Some 55 defendants, including former Parmalat CEO Calisto Tanzi, his brother Giovanni Tanzi and the then chief financial officer, Fausto Tonna, stand accused of bankruptcy fraud and criminal association.

If found guilty, Tanzi could face 15 years in jail.

Prosecutors have been given up to five years to complete the mammoth trial before the statute of limitations runs out on the case, dubbed "Europe's Enron". This would have to include possibly two appeals in addition to the 125-plus hearings already scheduled.

The trial will examine 10m pages of documents and hear as many as 34,000 defence witnesses that Tanzi has called.

Last month, the company that emerged after the scandal and now trades as Parmalat posted an 8.6% rise in underlying EBITDA to EUR367.1m (US$531m) for 2007.

Revenue jumped 9.1% to EUR3.9bn on the back of rising prices in the dairy sector.