Leeds United co-owner Cellino in charge change over Italian trial

Massimo Cellino is no stranger to two things: controversy or court cases. Since taking over the reins at Leeds United there have been healthy servings of both of these.

Last year Italian law was changed to decriminalise certain offences, the result being that Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino found himself a winner in court, something of a rarity for the Whites’ now co-owner. That win, over a fine for avoiding import duty on a Range Rover, meant that Cellino had his 223-day Football League ban rescinded, a ban which was on appeal in any case.

Much to the chagrin of some elements of the Leeds United fanbase, Massimo Cellino was free to continue his contested ownership of the Whites. This run of luck also seemed to continue with regard to a ‘conviction’ Cellino received in regard to his yacht ‘Lucky 23’. Initially Cellino was accused of ‘smuggling’ the yacht into Italy from the United States due to the fact that he hadn’t paid the necessary import duty or IVA tax.

The alleged ‘importation’ of the Lucky 23 involved alleged non-payment of VAT to the tune of €84,122 with this forming the basis of the charge raised against Massimo Cellino. However, a report from Italian newspaper L’Unione Sarda announced the news that Cellino had been cleared of wrongdoing in that case also, as backed up by Phil Hay’s following tweet.

However, Cellino is facing more serious charges in regard to what is commonly known as the IS Arenas case currently going through the Italian judicial system. The original arrest warrant for Cellino, issued as far back as February 2013, called the then-Cagliari owner a man with “marked criminal tendencies … capable of using every kind of deception to achieve his ends.”

It is deception that appears at the very heart of this trial with charges being laid against the Leeds United owner, the former mayor of Quarto Sant’ Elena Mauro Contini and the commissioner of public works Stefano Lilliu – serious charges that include attempted embezzlement, forgery and violations of ‘zoning’ regulations.

This case is currently on hiatus, a delay being issued until later on in 2017. It appears that the delay is a procedural one, with the original Italian judges involved in the case, according to Italian journalist Chiara Zammitti on Twitter, being “assigned to other roles”, this obviously facilitating the swearing-in of new judges and a projected adjournment until February 2017.

However, in news coming through yesterday on Italian site Sarda News, whilst Cellino may not be able to wave a magic wand and flutter away from all charges, it seems as if one charge has been reformulated. It appears that before the reformulation of the charge, according to the Sarda News article, the indictment was speaking “generically of buildings” in areas covered by certain statutes, now prosecutors “have called a norm for unauthorised construction over 1000 cubic metres.”

The hearing will still continue with this modified charge joining alongside the main charge of alleged embezzlement with Sarda News saying: “ According to the indictment the defendants were prepared to use 365 thousand euro of public money to the Is Arenas stadium-related work (electrical substation, fence and access road to the plant) which instead would have to pay the sports club.

The hearing itself is due to reconvene on 22 May this year.

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