Leeds United: Cellino avoids tax conviction but another trial awaits

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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Leeds United co-owner Massimo Cellino has avoided another tax conviction after a charge he faced in Italy was downgraded from a criminal offence.

Cellino has been acquitted in the case of the yacht ‘Lucky 23’ following a change to Italian law which decriminalised his alleged wrongdoing.

The 60-year-old, who has been involved in several tax evasion cases during his spell in charge of Leeds, was accused of failing to pay VAT owed on a boat imported by him from the USA.

A similar case, involving a different private yacht named ‘Nelie’, saw Cellino convicted of tax evasion by a court in Cagliari in March 2014, a ruling which threatened his takeover of Leeds and led the Football League to temporarily ban him from running the club in January 2015.

Last May, Cellino was found guilty of evading tax on an imported Range Rover – a case which left him facing a second Football League suspension – but he was later cleared in that case after the offence was changed to a civil offence.

The Football League’s Owners and Directors Test only takes account of criminal convictions.

In December 2015 legislation changes also ended a case in which Cellino was alleged to have avoided paying tax in relation to transfers involving two Cagliari players, Edgar Alvarez and Joe Bizera, while Cellino was owner of the Serie A club.

Cellino, who sold 50 per cent of Leeds United to Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani three weeks ago, is due to start an 18-month Football Association ban next Wednesday after being found guilty of sanctioning an illegal payment during Ross McCormack’s move to Fulham in 2014.

He is appealing that penalty and the FA told the YEP that it is yet to decide whether his ban will be delayed until after the appeal has been heard.

Cellino, meanwhile, remains at the centre of an embezzlement trial which centres on the construction of a temporary stadium for Cagliari in Sardinia in 2012.

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