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Embattled World Online International NV threatened to sue the Dutch public prosecutor conducting the probe into possible insider trading in the company’s March bourse launch. World Online, a Dutch Internet service provider, said it would seek damages against the prosecutor and the shareholder lobby group VEB if the company’s deal with the Italian telecommunications concern, Tiscali SpA, falls through. Tiscali’s London spokesman, Nicholas Bastin, declined to comment on whether his company is considering withdrawing its bid. The public prosecutor is conducting an inquiry into whether insider trading occurred in the March initial public offering of World Online. The company’s former chairwoman, Nina Brink, was forced to resign over the scandal. World Online is already facing a lawsuit from the shareholder group. And last week, prosecutors raided the company’s offices in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and several private homes in connection with the investigation. WOL’s lawyer, Peter van Schilfgaarde of De Brauw Blackstone Linklaters & Alliance, described the raids as “rash.” He said it was absurd to conduct a search four months after the filing of the complaint by lawyers for the shareholders. He accused the public prosecutor, Henk de Graaff, of waiting until Tiscali published its bid prospectus before making the raids. Robert Meulenbroek, spokesman for the public prosecutors office, denied any deliberate timing of the searches. The inquiry has been in progress since May, when the shareholders suit was filed, he said. “We’d looked at everything we had, and there were still questions we needed answered,” he said. Meulenbroek also confirmed that investigators Tuesday staged a raid of the offices of ABN Amro Bank, joint lead manager of the WOL bourse launch along with Goldman, Sachs & Co. He declined to specify who else had been raided. “We can only confirm any raids once these have been made public by those who have been visited,” he said. A source within Goldman, Sachs said the company had spoken with a representative of the Dutch public prosecutor’s office, but that the company is not a target of the investigation. Meulenbroek also confirmed a statement by Brink that she had handed over documents voluntarily. The search warrants issued for documents at WOL and ABN Amro cited articles of Dutch securities trading law related to both insider trading and the publication of misleading information in the launch prospectus, Meulenbroek said. He added that it will be months before the public prosecutor makes any final decision on the prosecution of the case. “We’re unlikely to announce our decision before April of next year,” he said. Analysts were still positive about Tiscali’s takeover of WOL and still see the Tiscali bid going ahead. London-based David Oddono of Actinvest Group said the case involved former WOL management. “This is about previous management, such as Nina Brink. I don’t think it will affect the takeover. Besides, these allegations have been around for a while. Tiscali was well aware of them when it made its bid,” Oddono said. He added that the tender process has already started. “Tiscali already has binding commitments from major shareholders for 62 percent of World Online’s shares. I expect Tiscali to have full control of the company by the end of the tender period in three weeks,” he said. Copyright (c)2000 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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