Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Italian Football Clubs Raided In Tax Probe

Police have raided 41 Italian football clubs, including 18 of the 20 Serie A sides, as part of a tax and money-laundering investigation.

Documents were seized and premises searched in an apparently coordinated operation early on Tuesday as officers hunted for evidence of tax evasion and irregularities over the buying and selling of players.

The other clubs involved in the inquiry were 11 B league teams and 12 from the lower brackets, a police spokesman confirmed.

Though none of the team names was officially released, both the Reuters and AP news services reported that sources within the police and judiciary had suggested that top clubs Lazio and Juventus were among the clubs involved in the inquiry.

The probe also included 12 player agents and a number of foreign clubs.

The spokesman said the operation had been ordered by a court in Naples in connection with crimes of criminal conspiracy, international tax evasion, money-laundering and invoice falsification.

A statement by Naples prosecutors added that the clubs involved in the searches were under investigation for alleged conspiracy to avoid payment of "huge amounts of money" to tax authorities during the transfer of players.

Italian football is no stranger to scandal on or off the pitch, with match-fixing allegations and hooliganism among its other problems.

A major match-fixing scandal in 2006 involved some of Italy's top clubs, including Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina.

Telephone wiretaps at the time showed alleged attempts by club managers - mostly Luciano Moggi, a now disgraced, ex-Juventus executive - to influence referee appointments.

The scandal sent shockwaves across football-crazed Italy before the World Cup in Germany.

Juventus, who were Serie A champions, were relegated to the second division for the first time in their history, and were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles.

Other problems have marred Italian football, from violence to low attendance at many of the nation's ageing stadiums.

Tottenham fans were among those to feel the force of Italian football violence last November when a mob of about 50 assailants, armed with sticks, iron bars and paving stones, launched a frenzied assault on them at a pub in Rome ahead of a Europa League game against Lazio.

Lazio's fanatical "Ultras" supporters were initially suspected of the attack, but two fans of cross-town rivals Roma were later charged with the attempted murder of one Spurs fan who was stabbed.

Coaches and players have been among dozens implicated in match-fixing in a country where the courts have extraordinary powers to order arrests and inquiries into allegations of wrongdoing.