Thursday, May 25, 2006

Milan's involvement

AC Milan allegedly tried to arrange which referees would officiate its matches in the 2004-5 season, just as Juventus is accused of doing, according to new wiretaps published in today's edition of the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Milan issued a statement by its lawyer denying wrongdoing and saying the phone taps were "poorly interpreted".

Financial police also searched the offices of AC Milan and Internazionale as part of Turin prosecutors' investigation into false bookkeeping by Juventus' former management. Documents on player transfers and team budgets were taken from the offices of several other clubs as well, with the focus on transfers involving Juventus.

Italian football has been embroiled in a scandal for the last few weeks, with prosecutors in Turin, Parma, Naples and Rome conducting investigations into suspected match-fixing, illegal betting and manipulation of referee assignments.

The scandal is centered on Juventus and former general manager Luciano Moggi. He and the entire Juventus board resigned, and the team faces possible relegation just weeks after winning its record 29th Serie A title.

Lazio and Fiorentina have also been implicated.

According to the transcripts published in Corriere, Milan chairman Adriano Galliani, who is also President of Lega Calcio, apparently had official Leonardo Meani make arrangements with referees commission secretary Manfredi Martino.

Meani was reportedly told by Martino two days before a game against Chievo that Gianluca Paparesta would officiate the match. Martino also informed Meani that the team's linesman of choice, Claudio Puglisi, was assigned to the game.

Paparesta has reportedly acknowledged being locked up in a locker room by Moggi for failing to assure the club a victory last season. Moggi is under investigation for allegedly trying to manipulate assignments of referees for Juventus games.

After a match between Siena and Milan in 2005, which Milan lost, Meani talked on the phone with the official who assigns linesmen, Gennaro Mazzei, and complained about a linesman at the game.

"I don't want him! I never asked for him and I never wanted him!" Meani said, according to Corriere. "Now you be careful, be careful," Meani said, adding that "Galliani is furious."

Before a Milan derby last year against city rival Inter, Puglisi spoke to Meani about how "important it is for us to (beat) these Interisti," according to the transcripts.

In a statement, Milan lawyer Leandro Cantamessa said, "I've said and repeated to the point of getting sick that Milan has nothing to do with this case."

Meani, Mazzei and Puglisi were included on a list of 41 people asked two weeks ago to appear for questioning by Naples prosecutors.


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