Fashion duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have been sentenced to one year and eight months in prison for dodging the tax man.

An investigation into the duo’s financial affairs began in 2007. A study of their tax statements was conducted from 2004 to 2006.

A holding company owned by the pair, Gado SRL bought and took control of the designers’ business. However, the sale was undervalued, allowing Dolce and Gabbana to shirk tax duties worth $ 1 billion (R900 billion).

Charges were then brought against the two, who spent years going in and out of court to deny the charges. Although an Italian court ruled in their favour, Italy’s Supreme Court of Appeal reinstated the charges.

In April this year, a tax court ordered the pair to pay a fine of $440 million (R4 billion). Additionally the duo faced a jail sentence of five years, which was reduced to 20 months imprisonment.

Three other defendants, including two managers, were also convicted in the scheme and given suspended sentences of one year and four months. A sixth defendant was acquitted.

Dolce and Gabbana are expected to appeal their sentence. Defence lawyer Massimo Dinoia pledged to appeal the ruling, saying the fact that the court issued an acquittal on a charge that had expired, instead of just letting it fall to the statute of limitations, “means the proof of their innocence is evident.”