Italian prosecutors have for six months held documents concerning a Hong Kong company, obtained using a court order based on potentially misleading information, and there is nothing city courts can do about it. That was the message that emerged in a court hearing yesterday. Lawyers for the company asked the Court of First Instance to order the Department of Justice to request the prosecutors disregard the documents until proceedings in Hong Kong concerning them have ended. The case concerns investigation of alleged fraud involving former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Court of First Instance will soon hear a judicial review of the decision in January to issue warrants to search four Hong Kong firms based on a disputed letter of request from Italian investigators. It is alleged that the letter contained misrepresentations. Items seized have been placed under lock and key pending the outcome of the review. Bank records of one of the four companies, Harmony Gold, were also the subject of a production order issued based on the same letter of request, and were seized and taken to Italy in March, lawyers for Harmony Gold learned three weeks ago. Alexander King SC, for the company, argued that since the production order was issued based on the same information used to grant the warrants, it was likely the documents would have been sealed as well had Harmony Gold known of the order. He asked Mr Justice Michael Hartmann to order the Department of Justice to tell the Italians the documents were subject to challenge in the hope it would persuade them not to use them before the litigation in Hong Kong had run its course. Clive Grossman SC, for the government, argued that any such order would be an empty gesture. Mr Justice Hartmann agreed.