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Leeds Deal Possible Despite Fine

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LONDON, March 19, 2014 (AFP) – Massimo Cellino’s lawyer insisted his client’s planned takeover of Leeds United could still go through despite the Cagliari president being handed a hefty fine on Tuesday for failing to pay duty on a yacht.
England’s Football League board is due to meet early next week to consider Cellino’s proposal to buy a 75 percent stake in second-tier side Leeds.
However, Tuesday’s decision by a court in Sardinia could scupper the deal.
According to Italy’s domestic news agency ANSA, Cellino has been ordered by a court in Cagliari to pay a fine of 600,000 euros for failing to declare the yacht, imported from the United States, to Italian authorities.
The yacht in question has also been confiscated, according to the report.
Cellino avoided paying 400,000 euros in import duty although the fine is far inferior to the figure of 1.165m euros demanded by the public prosecutor Andrea Massidda.
Cellino’s proposed takeover of Leeds had been agreed in principle although Tuesday’s decision could bar the Italian from having any involvement with the club.
The Football League’s rules prohibit people with unspent convictions for dishonesty offences from having any influential role at one of its clubs.
But Cellino’s lawyer, Giovanni Cocco, told BBC Radio Leeds that Tuesday’s verdict was “irrelevant” as far as the takeover was concerned.
“According to my point of view, this business (on Tuesday) has no relevance whatsoever to the decision of the Football League.
“Obviously that’s up to the Football League themselves.
“In my opinion, as a lawyer, today’s (Tuesday’s) sentence has no relevance to the takeover of Leeds United.
“The verdict does not mean that Cellino is guilty — because in Italian law he can only be guilty after the third stage of the process. Today he is innocent.”
A Football League statement said: “The Football League has noted the outcome of the court hearing earlier (on Tuesday) regarding Massimo Cellino.
“We are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with his legal representatives in this country and cannot comment further at this time.”
Cellino already has a 2001 conviction for false accounting and is being investigated for alleged misuse of public funds relating to construction work on Cagliari’s Quartu Sant’Elena stadium.

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