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SBD Global/March 6, 2014/Franchises

Takeover Of League Championship Side Leeds In Balance As Cellino Accused Of Tax Evasion

The proposed takeover of League Championship side Leeds United by Serie A side Cagliari Owner Massimo Cellino "could collapse this month if Cellino is found guilty in a Sardinian court of failing to pay tax which prosecutors allege was due on a yacht he took to Italy" from the U.S., according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. Cellino "is accused of illegally evading paying" €400,000 import duty on the yacht, which was seized in Cagliari in '10. At a court hearing in Cagliari last week, Sardinian public prosecutor Andrea Massidda argued for a €1.17M ($1.6M) fine to be imposed on Cellino, "and for the yacht to be confiscated." It is now assumed "the League will await the outcome of the tax evasion case against Cellino before making any decision." If Cellino is convicted, "it is almost certain he will be barred from completing his purchase of a 75% stake in Leeds." Cellino's lawyer in Sardinia, Giovanni Cocco, said that Cellino "is intending to plead not guilty to the tax evasion charge" in court on March 18. Cocco explained that Cellino's defense is that the yacht was owned by a U.S. company "and that Cellino was not bound to pay tax on it" (GUARDIAN, 3/5).

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