Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce (R) and Stefano Gabbana pose for a picture as they arrive at the opening ceremony for their new boutique in Moscow, in this file picture taken June 24, 2010. Dolce and Gabbana were handed a 20-month suspended prison sentence and a heavy fine on June 19, 2013 for hiding hundreds of millions of euros from the Italian tax authorities. The design duo were not present in court in Milan and will lodge an appeal against their conviction on charges that they have always denied. Source: REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files
An Italian court sentenced celebrated fashion house duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to one year and eight months in prison for avoiding taxes totalling 200 million euros ($268 million).
The pair were also ordered by the court in Milan to pay a fine of 500,000 euros to Italy's national tax agency.
Lawyers for Dolce and Gabbana, whose celebrity clients include Beyonce and Madonna, immediately said they will appeal, and under Italian law the sentence will be suspended in the meantime.
The pair were accused of having transferred control of their brands to a shell company in Luxembourg in 2004 and 2005 to avoid paying Italian taxes.
Prosecutors had argued that setting up the Luxembourg company Gado -- an acronym of the surnames of the two designers -- while the company was operating out of Italy was a bid to defraud the state.
They had called in May for the pair to be sent down for two years and six months.
In her closing speech at the trial, prosecutor Laura Pedio said there was "rock-solid proof" that the duo had committed "sophisticated tax fraud".
"Cases as complex as this one are the most insidious," Pedio said, describing Gado as "a sort of cloud with the consistency of gas".
Fellow prosecutor Gaetano Ruta said Gado was "an artificial construction the aim of which was to get a tax advantage".
Although Dolce and Gabbana had originally been accused of tax evasion of around one billion euros, the court ruled that just 200 million euros of that sum was relevant.
Four other people, including Dolce's brother Alfonso, were given suspended jail sentences.
Investigators completed a probe into the designers and five other people, in 2010 and the case was dismissed in April 2011 but reopened in November last year and went to trial.
"All that I care about is making clothes, that's all. Let them do and say whatever they want," Gabbana tweeted about the trial in April.
"To be accused of something that's not true is not a pretty thing, but the heart of the matter is, who cares, we'll all end up in the ground in the end," he said.
Founded in 1985, Dolce and Gabbana employs more than 3,000 people and has 250 shops in 40 countries around the world.
Italy has been cracking down on widespread tax evasion in an effort to raise government revenues following the global economic crisis.
Tax evasion is estimated to cost Italy between 120 billion and 150 billion euros ($160-200 billion) a year.