UEFA opens investigation into Juventus as club’s woes grow

MILAN (AP) — Juventus’ off-the-field problems keep on worsening in a scandal reverberating through Italian soccer.

UEFA opened an investigation into Juventus on Thursday, hours after it was revealed that the Turin prosecutor’s office had requested indictments for former president Andrea Agnelli and 10 other former board members as well as the club itself amid allegations of false accounting.

Former vice-president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene — who both left the club Monday when Agnelli and the entire board of directors resigned — are among those for whom indictments have been requested as is former Juventus director of sport Fabio Paratici, who has moved to Tottenham.

“The CFCB (Club Financial Control Body) First Chamber has today opened a formal investigation into Juventus for potential breaches of the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations,” European soccer’s governing body said in a statement.

The investigation “will focus on the alleged financial violations that were recently made public as a result of the proceedings led by the Italian Companies and Exchange Commission (CONSOB) and the public prosecutor in Turin,” UEFA continued.

The UEFA-appointed investigation unit is chaired by Sunil Gulati, the former United States soccer federation president who is an economics lecturer at Columbia University.

The unit concluded a settlement agreement with Juventus in August — to avoid more serious sanctions for breaches of financial monitoring rules that apply to all clubs who qualify for UEFA competitions — but UEFA said on Thursday that that could be revoked.

“In the event that, after conclusion of this investigation, the club’s financial situation was significantly different from that assessed by the CFCB First Chamber at the time the settlement agreement was concluded, or if new and substantial facts arise or become known, the CFCB First Chamber reserves the right to terminate the settlement agreement, take any legal step it may deem appropriate, and impose disciplinary measures,” UEFA said.

It added that it will cooperate with the Italian authorities, who are expected to announce within the next week a date for a preliminary hearing, when it will be decided whether to indict and proceed to trial.

Juventus maintains that “the accounting treatment adopted in the contested financial statements falls within those allowed by applicable accounting principles” and that it has drawn that conclusion “on the basis of a solid set of opinions by leading legal and accounting professionals.”

In a lengthy statement issued by the club, it added: “Juventus remains convinced that it has always acted correctly and intends to assert its reasons and defend its corporate, economic and sporting interests in all forums.”

Prosecutors have been investigating since last year whether Juventus cashed in on illegal commissions from transfer and loans of players. The case is also exploring if investors were misled with invoices being issued for non-existent transactions to demonstrate income that in turn could be deemed false accounting.

The case involves player contracts, transfers and agent dealings between 2018 and 2020.

At the start of the pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But prosecutors claim the players gave up only one month’s salary.

Turin prosecutors have also apparently discovered more secret payments to former player Cristiano Ronaldo that were not reported by Juventus.

Juventus is listed on the Milan stock exchange, which also opens it to regulatory scrutiny by the CONSOB watchdog. The club CFO, Stefano Cerrato, was caught on phone taps allegedly saying that if CONSOB questioned their moves, they would “razzle-dazzle” the regulators with fancy words, according to leaks to Italian media.

Trading in Juventus shares was flat on Thursday, after a negative 1.16% close on Tuesday at 0.2738 euros.

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