Clare Burnett

Leeds United awaits judgement on Cellino tax evasion case as trial is delayed again

Leeds United is one again in turmoil as owner Massimo Cellino’s trial for tax evasion is delayed again, after the judge in the case abstained from hearing it due to conflict of interest.

Italian prosecutors accuse Cellino of avoiding around £75k in import duty owed on a private yacht, Lucky 23.

According to Italian media, Dr Sandra Lepore has stepped aside and will need a replacement to hear Cellino’s trial, having previously convicted Leeds United’s owner of a separate tax offence.

Cellino received a fine of around £400k for a different boat in Cagiliari in March by Lepore, and the conviction was initially used by the Football League to bar him from buying a majority stake in Leeds.

Cellino overturned that decision on appeal and completed his takeover of United in April but the second case continues to threaten the his ownership at Elland Road.

The Football League will judge from the ruling of the Italian court whether Cellino’s tax offence was deliberately dishonest, grounds for denying him ownership of the club.

Cellino successfully challenged the League’s attempt to block his takeover on the grounds that the League could not prove if he was guilty of dishonesty without the judges written verdict.

The League could bring misconduct charges against Cellino if he fails to supply them with the judgement.

The League’s board could attempt to bar Cellino for a second time if it finds that his offence in the second case was deliberately dishonest, though Cellino’s conviction in that instance will be spent under UK law in March of next year.

The League’s rules on owners and directors do not apply to spent convictions.

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