An Italian court is expected to rule on Wednesday (June 19) on whether legendary fashion duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana should be sent to prison for allegedly hiding hundreds of millions of euros from the tax authorities.

The case, one of the few prominent tax disputes to go to court in Italy, dates back to 2004, when the pair sold their brand to Luxembourg-based holding company Gado to allegedly avoid declaring taxes on royalties of about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

Cash-strapped Italy has recently stepped up action on tax evasion, something that was also featuring high at this week's Group of Eight meeting.

Dolce and Gabbana, who count pop singer Madonna and model Naomi Campbell among their clients and who draw inspiration from Italy's "dolce vita" (sweet life) style of the 1950s, have denied the charges.

Several of their business associates are also on trial in Milan.

Prosecutor Gaetano Ruta, who is working on the criminal case, said late in May the two should be sentenced to two and half years in jail as they were the people who "indirectly" benefited most from the operation.

The two fashion designers can appeal against a potentially negative verdict twice before it gets to Italy's highest court, a process that could take years.

Presented by Adam Justice