Serie A & B under police probe for alleged tax evasion

General view of the headquarters of Serie A football club AC Milan, in Italy, on Jan 26, 2016.
General view of the headquarters of Serie A football club AC Milan, in Italy, on Jan 26, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

NAPLES • Italian police seized assets yesterday from footballers, their agents and club executives as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion in the country's top two divisions.

Tax police based in the southern city of Naples were seizing cash, stocks and property worth more than €12 million (S$18.6 million) from 58 people involved in professional football across Italy, Naples prosecutor Vincenzo Piscitelli said in a statement.

The prosecutor's statement did not name any clubs or individuals involved.

In Italy, being placed under investigation does not imply guilt and does not necessarily lead to charges being laid.

Judicial sources said those named in the investigation included former Argentina international and Modena coach Hernan Crespo, Napoli chairman Aurelio de Laurentiis, Lazio club president Claudio Lotito, and AC Milan chief executive officer Adriano Galliani.

According to reports in Italy, Argentinians Ezequiel Lavezzi, who moved from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain in 2012, and former Inter Milan striker Diego Milito were among the players who have been implicated.

Napoli and Modena declined to comment. A spokesman for Lazio said Lotito was not aware of any probe. Lawyers for Milan said Galliani had been advised yesterday that an investigation had been completed and that they expected the case to be shelved.

The seizures are part of a broader investigation that uncovered a "deep-rooted system intended to evade taxes, put in place by 35 football clubs in Serie A and Serie B along with more than 100 other individuals, including players and their agents", Piscitelli said.

Police allege players' agents created false invoices for their services to clubs, which in turn took advantage of the chance to pay lower dues on the sums involved.

The system, which allowed the players to avoid declaring "fringe benefits" to the tax authorities, also revealed some Argentinian agents used false documentation and companies set up in tax havens to dodge the system, Piscitelli added.

Italian authorities cracked down on tax evasion as the global financial crisis ate away at state coffers, and have pursued high-profile targets including fashion designers and sports stars.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Serie A & B under police probe for alleged tax evasion'. Print Edition | Subscribe