West Ham would-be owner Massimo Cellino outed as convicted fraudster

15 January 2010 04:17
West Ham's tumultuous season took another turn for the worse today when it was revealed that wannabe owner Massimo Cellino is a convicted fraudtser.

The multimillionaire Italian emerged as a front runner to buy the club this week but a revelation in The Sun newspaper has reopened a race that has blighted the Upton Park boardroom for almost a year.

Cellino, who is using his own money to fund the bid, is understood to be ready to pay around £63million to gain control at Upton Park and is also ready to clear West Ham's debt, estimated to be about £40m.

Stand and deliver: Massimo Cellino had hoped to purchase West Ham

But given he has twice had suspended jail sentences for deception, the 54-year-old would fail the Premier League's 'fit and proper person' test.

The news is a body blow to Hammers fans who have been desperate for fresh investment as the club look to steer themselves clear of the relegation mire.

The League states that a director will be barred 'in respect of any offence involving any act which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.'

It also states that 'a conviction (not a spent conviction) imposed by a court of the UK or a competent court of foreign jurisdiction in respect of which an unsuspended sentence of at least 12 months imprisonment was imposed' will prevent a would-be owner from seizing control of a club.

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Miami-based Cellino was, in 1996, held in custody for eight days and later convicted of deceiving the EU and the Italian Ministry for Agriculture out of £7.5m. He plea-bargained a reduced and suspended 14-month sentence.

Then in 2001 he was handed a 15-month suspended sentence for false accounting at the Serie A club he controls.

And only last month Cellino was ordered to appear in court to give evidence in a football corruption trial involving referees and ex-officials of top Serie A sides.

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Source: Daily_Mail