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Massimo Cellino may be forced to sell controlling stake in Leeds


Massimo Cellino

Massimo Cellino

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Massimo Cellino

Leeds owner Massimo Cellino will be forced to sell his controlling stake in the club if an Italian judge rules that his recent tax evasion conviction was an act of "dishonesty".

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said the long wait for the full written judgment on Cellino's conviction for failing to pay tax on his yacht was "a cloud still hanging over the Football League and the club and Mr Cellino himself".

Cellino was found guilty of tax evasion in March but following an appeal was allowed to complete his takeover at Elland Road because the Italian court had not confirmed whether it felt the offence had been a "dishonest act".

The Italian judge in the initial case will confirm this in her full written report, which had been expected in June.

The League had no option but to allow Cellino to complete his takeover in April, but Harvey, former chief executive at Leeds, said the Italian could yet fail its owners' and directors' test.

"It's exceptionally disappointing that we haven't actually had the judgment, if only to draw a line under the whole scenario so that everyone knows where they are," Harvey told the Guardian.

"It's a cloud still hanging over the Football League and the club and Mr Cellino himself.

"The actual single arbiter in the matter (the Football League) made it very clear that when the written reasons are issued as part of the judicial process, if it is clear in there that the act was one of dishonesty, which is the test that we apply, then at that stage he would fail the owners' and directors' test and as such wouldn't be able to be a director of the football club or exert any control.

"He is under an obligation to divest himself of his shares at that stage.

"From our perspective he then fails the owners' and directors' test and at that stage the provisions are in the rules that he has to divest himself of his interests.

"We'd obviously give the club a reasonable period of time to organise its affairs because you wouldn't want to put the future of the club at risk immediately that you had a decision.

"It's a matter the Football League board would have to consider at that particular time."

The publication of the Italian judgment has been repeatedly delayed and Harvey added: "We are constantly monitoring it.

"We have been asked to be kept informed. Our influence over the judicial system in Italy is somewhat limited.

"We have Italian lawyers monitoring it for us and we've been told it will come out when it comes out. That's how the Italian judicial system has been described to us."

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