Santo Versace, brother of murdered fashion designer Gianni, is set to appear in an Australian court to give evidence in a defamation case against a private investigator who published a book claiming the family was involved in the mafia.

Mr Versace has flown to Sydney from Milan after the Italian fashion company began defamation proceedings against Frank Monte, author of "The Spying Game". The book was published earlier this year but later withdrawn from sale.

Mr Monte claims to have worked for Gianni Versace in the year before his death in 1997 and to have reproduced accurate details of their conversations in his book.

However, the federal court was told those claims were false and that Mr Monte had no working relationship with Gianni Versace.

Lawyers representing the Italian fashion giant added at the start of the hearing that the book was false and defamatory and designed to cause great harm to the commercial reputation of the Versace family.

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