MILAN, Italy: The Italian tax authorities on Friday denied claims that Diego Maradona had won his right to return to the country after being cleared of owing nearly 40 million euros in unpaid taxes.
The former Napoli and Argentina footballer’s lawyer had earlier said that the long-running case against his client had been dropped, lifting the ban on him travelling to the country.
But the commission in charge of the dossier later insisted that the ruling that he owed unpaid taxes totalling 37.2 million euros ($50.5 million, 32 million pounds) had been “neither annulled nor declared lapsed”, the Italian news agency ANSA said.
Nor had it “changed the debt owned by Diego Armando Maradona to the Italian treasury”, the debt recovery agency was quoted as saying.
The agency said that it had not ruled out a complaint against Maradona for making “false statements”.
World Cup winner Maradona helped Napoli to their only two league titles in Serie A in 1987 and 1990 but left Italy under a cloud amid claims of collusion with mafia dons and a positive drugs test for cocaine.
His lawyer, Angelo Pisani, told ANSA on Friday that Maradona had “finally been liberated from this fiscal nightmare and the accusations he faced” in a ruling that also annulled proceedings against other players including Brazil’s Careca and Amemao.
An Italian court in 2005 ordered Maradona to pay 37.2 million euros, 23.5 million of which was interest, after being accused of tax evasion. The case was relaunched in 2011 due to a series of procedural errors.
Pisani said on Friday that the former star, one of the greatest but also most controversial figures in football, would now attempt to win nearly 40 million euros in damages for defamation.
Maradona courted controversy throughout his career, not least because of his disputed first goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England in the 1986 World Cup that he claimed was scored by the “Hand of God”.
The match was already a highly charged encounter given the short war that Britain had fought in its Falkland Islands territory in the South Atlantic Ocean after Argentinian troops invaded and claimed sovereignty in 1982.
After competing the ban for cocaine use at Napoli, Maradona was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States after testing positive for the banned stimulant ephedrine.
He eventually retired from the game in 1997 after spells with FC Seville in Spain and Newell’s Old Boys and Boca Juniors in his native Argentina.
After ballooning in weight, Maradona in 2005 underwent treatment to slim down and overcome his addiction to cocaine.
He went on to a coaching career which has been largely mediocre, coaching the Argentinian national side (2008-2010) and United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl (2011-2012). -AFP
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