Police have raided the offices of the Italian League and several clubs as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities in the distribution of TV broadcasting rights involving rights agency Infront, Sky Italia and Mediaset.
Bari and Genoa also allegedly received illegal assistance help in meeting the financial criteria for Serie B and Serie A clubs, while the role of Lazio president, Claudio Lotito, in the deal is also under scrutiny.
The inquiry is looking into whether Infront Italy SRL and its president Marco Bogarelli colluded with Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset and Rupert Murdoch-controlled Sky Italia to exclude competition as the two companies jointly secured the rights to broadcast top flight Italian football for €945 million per season over the 2015-18 seasons.
According to a report in Corriere della Sera, Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi and Bari president Gianluca Paparesta are also being investigated for accepting illegal payments from Infront in order to meet the financial obligations required of professional clubs.
Preziosi allegedly accepted a €15 million payment which can be traced back to Infront and Andrea Baroni’s tax consultancy company Tax and Finance.
Baroni has been arrested on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Reports linking him to Infront were denied by the company who stated: “Infront does not have and has never had any business relationship or involvement whatsoever with the Swiss consultancy company Tax & Finance and/or Mr Andrea Baroni.”
Meanwhile Lazio president Lotito is being investigated for obstructing the work of watchdog body Covisoc in his role as an executive for the Italian Football Federation.
Infront, a sports consulting company headed up by Sepp Blatter’s nephew Philippe Blatter, acts as an advisor to the Serie A.
The company issued a statement saying: “We confirm that on October 9, 2015, Milan prosecutors opened an investigation into Marco Bogarelli, Giuseppe Ciocchetti and Andrea Locatelli, Infront Italy managers, regarding alleged collaboration in inappropriate financial practices regarding two Italian soccer teams and the alleged rigging of the administrative process for the awarding of Serie A TV rights for the 2015-2018 period.”
According to Infront: “The company Infront is not under investigation for these questions.” Infront and its management are cooperating with the authorities to order to demonstrate the correctness of the actions of the company managers.”
Mediaset has also issued a statement saying its staff had “worked completely within the rules.”
Meanwhile, Lazio’s Lotito hit out at “a campaign of lies” after reports that he is under investigation.
“For eight months now, a campaign of lies has been taking place against me,” Lotito told La Repubblica.
“I’ve read many untrue things about myself. I know what I have done and what I have not done, I’m not going to comment in any way on speculation in the newspapers.
“All I’ll say is that I’m disappointed by what is coming out, as none of it is true.
“We’ll talk at the end of this story, then we’ll see what the truth is.”
Today’s Gazzetta dello Sport alleges that Genoa president Preziosi, Lotito and Bari’s Paparesta are also under suspicion from prosecutors.
It’s thought that Lotito acted as a mediator for Bari in negotiations with InFront, who lent €470,000 to the Puglian side. The newspaper notes that such a payment is not illegal, but it asks why Lotito would seek to help another club.