Soccer-Judge weighs request for Juventus accounting trial

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

TURIN (Reuters) - A judge in Turin on Monday began examining whether former Juventus Chairman Andrea Agnelli, 11 other people and the club itself should face trial over allegations of false accounting at Italy's most successful soccer team.

On the first day of a hearing held behind closed doors, initial procedural issues were being addressed. The hearing is expected to last several months, after which judge Marco Picco will decide whether to order a trial.

Last December, prosecutors requested to send all the defendants to trial after investigating the club's accounting and statements made to financial markets in three recent years.

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.

Juventus have denied wrongdoing and said their accounting is in line with industry standards.

The case has stirred strong feelings in soccer-mad Italy. Juventus, owned by the Agnelli family for a century, enjoy strong support around the country but their wealth and success have stoked resentment from fans of rival teams.

One of three prosecutors in charge of the case against the club last week stepped aside from the proceedings after the emergence of previous derogatory comments he made about the team and his stated support for Serie A rivals Napoli.

Agnelli stepped down as chairman, resigning along with the rest of the club board in late November, days before the prosecutors' request for a trial.

The Turin criminal investigation has triggered a separate inquiry over the club's finances by Italy's sport authority, which resulted in a 15-point deduction for Juventus this season.

Napoli, with a 19-point lead and 11 games left to play, appear certain to win the title for only the third time.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Editing by Keith Weir, Peter Rutherford)

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