Soccer-Prosecutors seek trial for Juventus and former chairman Agnelli


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Torino v Juventus - Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Turin, Italy - October 15, 2022 Juventus president Andrea Agnelli before the match REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

MILAN, Italy (Reuters) -Prosecutors in Italy have requested that former Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli, 11 other people and the club itself stand trial over allegations of false accounting at the country's most successful soccer team, a senior source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.

Prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Turin, where Juventus are based, have been investigating the club's accounting and statements made to financial markets over the past three years.

Agnelli stepped down as chairman earlier this week, resigning along with the rest of the board.

Juventus had no comment on the Reuters report on Thursday. They have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and the club said on Wednesday that it would defend its interests with all sporting and legal bodies.

Under Italian law, a request for trial is notified to suspects only once a court hearing has been scheduled. At the end of the actual hearing, a judge must decide whether to send the defendants to trial or acquit them.

Turin prosecutors allege the club understated its financial losses for three seasons - 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

They have been looking into the values ascribed to player transfers between clubs and whether, as stated, salaries were sacrificed during the COVID-19 pandemic or simply deferred.

The club is controlled by the Agnelli family's Exor holding group and Juventus shares also trade on the Milan Stock Exchange.

Exor said on Thursday it had no comment on Juventus.

Turin prosecutors said in October that they had concluded their investigation into the club's accounts, a step that precedes a request for defendants to stand trial.

IN THE RED

Among those who could face trial with Agnelli is former vice-chairman Pavel Nedved, who played for the club from 2001-2009, the source said. Nedved's name also appeared on a document, seen by Reuters, about the conclusion of the preliminary investigation.

Agnelli, who had chaired Juventus since 2010, was one of the architects of the failed attempt to set up a breakaway European Super League together with other top clubs in 2021. His family has controlled the club for almost a century.

Under his tenure, Juventus secured nine consecutive domestic league titles. But they failed to win Europe's prestigious Champions League despite spending heavily on players including signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for 100 million euros in 2018.

Despite racking up domestic trophies, the loss-making club incurred rising costs linked to players' salaries, while revenues dropped as the coronavirus pandemic forced teams to play behind closed doors.

In a statement in October, prosecutors alleged that Juventus declared a loss of almost 40 million euros for the 2018-19 season when the figure should have been 84.5 million euros.

They added that the loss should have been 236 million euros in 2019-20 and not 90 million as stated by the club, and 222 million euros in 2020-21 instead of the reported 209 million.

Italy's football association FIGC has opened an investigation into allegations Juventus paid salaries to its players that were different from those it publicly reported. Potential penalties include points deductions or relegation.

Spain's LaLiga this week demanded sports sanctions be applied to Juventus for allegedly breaching European soccer's financial fair play rules.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni, Valentina Za and Hugh Lawson)

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