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6 Jan, 2024 18:05

Maradona exonerated by Italian court

The football icon had been subject to a three-decade battle with the country's revenue authorities
Maradona exonerated by Italian court

Italy’s highest court has cleared the late Argentinian football icon Diego Maradona of tax evasion charges, bringing to a close a 30-year legal battle with the country’s revenue authorities.

World Cup winning captain Maradona, who represented Napoli between 1984 and 1991, had been accused of using proxy companies in Liechtenstein to evade tax payments on fees received from the Italian club over his personal image rights.

Legal documents seen by Reuters showed that Rome’s Court of Cassation overturned a 2018 verdict last month, officially clearing Maradona of any financial wrongdoing. Probes into Maradona’s Italian tax affairs began in the early 1990s and led to €37 million ($40.38 million) in charges, as well as the confiscation of some of his personal belongings.

“It is over and I can clearly state without fear of being contradicted that Maradona has never been a tax evader,” his lawyer, Angelo Pisani, told the news agency on Friday.

Pisani added that the court’s decision “does justice to fans, to the values of sport, but mostly to the memory of Maradona,” adding that “it places a gravestone on a persecution that he suffered for 30 years.”

He also explained that the verdict affords Maradona’s family a “legal right” to seek damages. “I hope that they use it, in memory of their father,” he said.

Maradona, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers in history, scored more than 300 goals in a glittering club career which saw him represent Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Barcelona, in addition to his seven seasons in Italy.

He won 91 caps for the Argentinian national team, scoring 31 times, and captained his country to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico – where he scored his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the quarter-final against England.

He was the first player to break the world record transfer fee twice; in 1982, when he moved to Barcelona from Boca Juniors for £5 million and again two years later, when he joined Napoli for £6.9 million.

Maradona died of cardiac arrest in his sleep at his home in Buenos Aires on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60.