Italian Shakedown: Financial Police Question Top Football Clubs in Tax Investigation

It was a well orchestrated “sting” operation carried out to the letter on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by non other than Italy’s finest – its finest financial police, that is.  A total of 41 clubs, 18 from Serie A (only Bologna and Cagliari were spared) and 11 from Serie B, had their offices “raided” for financial records and documents “as part of a broad investigation into tax evasion and other alleged crimes involving player transfers”, The Wall Street Journal reported in an article on Wednesday.

photo courtesy of euronews.com

photo courtesy of euronews.com

Italy currently struggles with high tax rates, and to prevent yet another increase, the government is cracking down on tax evasion and other such offenses to try and mitigate the effects of a €2 trillion debt in the midst of a ruthless recession.  Italy suffers an estimated €100 billion loss annually due to tax evasion and related crimes. Football clubs and their dealings are no exception, made clear by Tuesday’s raids.

World- renowned clubs like Juventus, A.C. Milan, Internazionale, and Lazio all had their headquarter offices searched by Italian Financial Police on Tuesday, which were ordered by the public prosecutor’s office in Naples, according to the article.  This news comes in the same month when the world’s best footballer, Argentine Lionel Messi, is brought up on tax fraud charges by a prosecutor in Spain, alleging that the FC Barcelona star had failed to pay a reported €4 million in tax debt on unreported income. Messi responded to, and denied the allegations saying he has always “paid his taxes in full”.

According to CNN, the raids involved over 200 Italian Financial Police officers and the investigation “is looking at more than 50 player transfers, in particular those arranged by two football agents — Argentine Alejandro Mazzoni and Italian Alessandro Moggi. Eight agents are under investigation, while another four could potentially be drawn into the probe.” CNN reported that the charges associated with the investigation include “criminal association, international fiscal evasion, illicit brokering, and the production and use of fake invoices and money laundering.” Serie A and Serie B regulator, Lega Calcio was quoted saying,

At the moment the LNPA (Italian Football League) is not planning to release any official statement.

The whole situation reportedly began back in October of 2012, when Naples police started an investigation regarding Argentinian player Ezequiel Lavezzi’s Napoli contract. Lavezzi moved to Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a multimillion dollar deal, however, the Italian government insists that the players themselves are not a part of the investigation at this point.

Serious though the situation is, some club officials, like Internazionale Milano owner Massimo Moratti, are downplaying the raids as simple “requests” for documentation. In a transcript found on the club’s official website, Moratti was asked about Tuesday’s events, to which he responded:

It’s something they’re doing to 40 different clubs, and so it happened to us as well.

Though he declined to comment on the nature of the actual documents were which were seized by the Financial Police, he did say,

They’re things from the past, I believe.

It’s clear that this broad scale investigation is just getting started, and many pieces to the puzzle are still either unknown, or have not yet been released to the public. Italian authorities did say that foreign clubs were also a part of this investigation, but would not release the names of any of those clubs that may be involved, nor would the prosecutors make any further comments about the alleged crimes.

What do you think about the tax evasion investigation in Italian football? Let us know in the comments section below or via either Twitter or Facebook.

 

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.