Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino’s ownership have been disqualified, The Football League have confirmed on Monday.
The Italian had opposition before he took over the Championship Club earlier in April this year. He was facing charges of tax evasion, which had forced the Football League to block his takeover.
Cellino challenged the Football League and won an appeal against their decision to block his takeover. However, the Italian court has convicted Leeds owner of tax evasion after which the League’s board of directors agreed unanimously decided to disqualify the Cellino’s ownership.
A statement on The Football League’s official website read, “The Board of Directors of The Football League has, once again, considered the position of Leeds United President, Massimo Cellino, under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
“Previously (March 2014), the Board had ruled that Mr. Cellino was subject to a disqualifying condition after he was found guilty of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat (which resulted in him being fined €600,000). In April 2014, this decision was successfully appealed by Mr. Cellino at a hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) chaired by an independent QC (sitting alone).
“In reaching his verdict, Tim Kerr QC concluded that: “Mr Cellino has satisfied me that on the facts before me, what he was convicted of was not conduct which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.” Before going on to state that: “if the reasoned ruling of the court in Cagliari discloses that the conduct of Mr Cellino was such that it would reasonably be considered to be dishonest, he would become subject to a Disqualifying Condition.”
“At its meeting last week, the Board considered the reasoned Judgment of the Italian Court against Mr. Cellino, having successfully applied to the Italian Courts for its full disclosure. The Board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously (with the exception of its Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, who did not take part in the debate or vote having declared an interest*) that Mr. Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the Test.
Meanwhile, Cellino has two weeks to appeal the board’s decision to the PCC. It should be seen whether he will challenge the Football League’s decision for the second time or not
“Mr. Cellino is entitled to appeal the Board’s decision to the PCC within 14 days. As the Judgment of the Italian Court has not been published in Italy, The Football League will not make any of its contents public,” the statement added.
“Additionally, the Board concluded that it was appropriate to ask an independent Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC) to consider whether Mr Cellino and/or Leeds United breached League regulations relating to the timely disclosure of relevant information. The matter will be heard by an FDC in due course.”