Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino is no stranger to controversy, it seemingly follows him everywhere like the children following the Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Never is there a day without something happening on that front.
Already having served a Football League ban for evading import tax on a luxury yacht, Cellino again fell foul of the authorities and on October 19 2015 the controversial owner of the Whites was banned by the Football League for a second time over a second conviction for tax evasion of €40,000 (£28,000) on a Range Rover.
Instantly appealing this decision, Cellino fought tooth-and-nail to argue that changes in Italian law meant that any ban by the footballing authorities was unjust. The case was referred to a special League Arbitration Panel who stayed his ban until his appeal was heard.
The failure to pay import tax on the Range Rover formed the backbone of the Football League’s case, where bans only apply to criminal offences and what Cellino was convicted of would have amounted to a 223-day ban from duties assoociated with being owner of Leeds United.
I say ‘would have’ based on the following article on the L’Unione Sarda website and this Tweet by Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Phil Hay.
This is significant – Cellino quitted on appeal of breaking the law by importing Range Rover from the USA to Italy:https://t.co/alVuRFUjlX
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) May 9, 2016
The L’Unione Sarda article says the following:
“The Court of Appeal acquitted the former Cagliari Cagliari president Massimo Cellino from the charge of having imported from the United States a Rover Range without paying VAT. At first instance Cellino was sentenced to 40 thousand euro fine . Decisive recent legislative changes on the decriminalization of certain tax offenses that led the judges to declare the fact challenged by Cellino [was]no longer a crime . In pronouncing the acquittal, the judges also ordered the return of the off-roader to the former owner of Cagliari , who was defended by John Cocco.”
With ‘criminal convictions’ forming the basis of any Football League ban, this throws into confusion the pending 223-day ban that Cellino currently finds hanging over him like the mythical Damoclesian sword. When commenting in February on the case, the Football League said: “This will not affect the length of any disqualification served by Mr Cellino in the event that the League’s decision is upheld. He would then be required to serve a period equivalent to that which he would have served had he chosen not to appeal the matter.”
However, it seems that events of today in Italy could very well render the League’s power to ban obsolete in that the ‘League’s decision’ could not be ‘upheld’.