AC MILAN, Napoli and Lazio have dismissed their respective roles in the latest scandal to hit Italian football after dozens of players and officials were put under investigation on Tuesday.
A total of 64 people, including Milan CEO Adriano Galliani, Modena coach Hernan Crespo and Paris Saint Germain striker Ezequiel Lavezzi have been targeted by an Italian police investigation into alleged tax evasion and false accounting, according to widespread reports.
Dubbed ‘Fuorigioco’ (Offside), the probe was launched by prosecutors in Naples and is focusing on suspicions that several players’ agents colluded with club officials and players from Italy’s top two divisions in a complicated tax-avoidance scheme that deprived the tax man of millions of euros.
Most of the agents are from Argentina, according to a report on gazzetta.it. They claimed “assets valued at around 12 million euros ($13 million)” had already been seized.
Italian football has suffered for many years from scandals involving match-fixing and illegal sports betting.
Milan, the seven-times European champions, confirmed the club had received official notice from investigators but played down the reports as “absolutely marginal” and “unfounded”.
“Today, the public prosecutor of Naples decided to give Adriano Galliani a termination notice relating to the investigation for a series of events that are absolutely marginal and not founded and which will come to a resolution, in terms of both tax and criminal law, with a due dismissal,” said a club statement.
Napoli’s film producer president Aurelio De Laurentiis called the probe “crap”, adding: “I am totally relaxed”.
A lawyer for Lazio said club president Claudio Lotito “has not received any warrant that shows he is under investigation”.
The investigation stems from 2012, when Italy’s ‘Guardia di Finanza’ — the country’s financial police — raided the offices of current Serie A leaders Napoli to seize the contract of Lavezzi, who moved to Paris Saint Germain in 2012 for a reported 31m euros.
On Tuesday morning, Naples prosecutor Vincenzo Piscitelli ordered the Guardia di Finanza to carry out a series of raids.
Among those being probed are AC Milan vice-president Galliani, Napoli president Laurentiis, Lazio president Lotito, former Juventus president Jean-Claude Blanc as well as players’ agent Alessandro Moggi — the son of disgraced former Juventus official Luciano Moggi.
Crespo, a former Argentina international who spent most of his career in Serie A and who is now coach of Serie B side Modena, and PSG striker Lavezzi, an Argentina international, have also been implicated, say the reports.
Other Argentinians, including former Inter Milan striker Diego Milito and Atalanta striker German Denis are also under suspicion.
Players’ agents are alleged to have issued fictitious receipts for their services to clubs, pretending that negotiations had been carried out in the exclusive interest of the club, when in fact the agents were carrying out their usual work in the interests of their players.
Clubs were then able to benefit financially by deducting the agents’ invoices from their taxable income when filing tax declarations, in the process saving thousands of euros at a time.
The system also allowed the players and their agents — some of whom are alleged to have used ‘phantom’ companies and offshore bank accounts in financial tax havens — to benefit financially, said the report.