Rome's Prefect of Police, Giuseppe Pecoraro, who has legal jurisdiction in the city, has declared that IMAIE (Institute for the Protection of Performing Artists Rights) is "extinct." Under the ruling, the organization must stop operating and its assets are to be seized.

IMAIE has been the subject of considerable controversy in recent years. As reported in Billboard last year ("A Royal Scam," Nov. 29), things reached a head when the country's Guardia di Finanza (Fiscal Police) began to investigate claims regarding the misappropriation by IMAIE members of unclaimed royalties.

It involved royalty money collected from the broadcast and public performance of recorded music from 1975 to 2000. Collecting society SCF, which handles performance royalties for labels, collected the money retroactively on behalf of IMAIE and placed it in an IMAIE-administered fund.

IMAIE's president Edoardo Vianello tells Billboard.Biz that the organization has appealed against the Prefect's ruling and that the TAR (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale, or Regional Administrative Tribunal) of Lazio, the region that encompasses Rome, is due to rule on the case tomorrow (May 21). IMIAE members plan to stage a demonstration outside the TAR headquarters.

Vianello tells Billboard.Biz: "IMAIE is a private body and therefore the Prefect cannot declare it 'extinct.' This is a completely illegitimate and illegal act. Clearly, there is some political interest that is acting against us. Somebody wants to get their hands on our assets of €110 million ($151.5 million), but these belong to our 70,000 members, who are furious. We are going to fight this all the way."

He adds: "If the TAR upholds the Prefect's decision, then we will take this to the next legal level, which is the CSM [Consiglio Superioredella Magistratura, Superior Council of the Magistrature.]"