Milan: A sports marketing company run by the nephew of embattled FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has confirmed its CEO in Italy is under investigation as prosecutors probe the sale of Serie A television rights.
Infront, whose president is Philippe Blatter, will handle the distribution of Asian broadcast rights for 26 territories for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. But the company's chief in Italy, Marco Bogarelli, is one of several people being probed after Milan prosecutors ordered a succession of police raids on Friday following allegations of foul play during the attribution of Serie A television rights.
Bogarelli is known as the 'most powerful man in Italian football' because Infront controls the global marketing of Serie A, Serie B, the Italian Cup and the Italian SuperCup. He was questioned amid a probe to determine if the deal that saw Sky Italia and Mediaset agree on a contract worth EUR2.82 billion ($3.2 bn), which allows the broadcasting giants to televise matches live from 2015 to 2018, was above board.
Prosecutors claim Infront's methods were "in violation of the standards of transparency and fair competition" and police on Friday raided the Italian offices of Infront, Mediaset, Lega Serie A, as well as those of Serie A club Genoa and Serie B side Bari. In an official statement, Infront says the "company is not facing a formal probe in these subject matters".
But the Swiss-based marketing giants released a statement which confirmed Bogarelli and two other colleagues are under investigation. "We confirm that on Friday, October 9, 2015, the Prosecutor of Milan has opened a probe against Infront Italy's Marco Bogarelli, Andrea Locatelli and Giuseppe Ciocchetti, related to an alleged contribution to undue financing practices in Italian club football and an alleged manipulation of the administrative process of the Lega Serie A media rights tender for the 2015/2016 to 2017/2018 period."
Mediaset, the television company owned by AC Milan owner and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, issued a statement refuting any wrongdoing. "Following media reports pertaining to the investigation into the attribution of Serie A television rights for 2015-2018, Mediaset reiterates that the company and its management have always operated with full respect for the law," said the statement.
"Given the grounds for prosecution from any kind of collusion between Mediaset and Infront, we reiterate that relations between the companies have developed in a dialectical and transparent way." Infront also oversee the marketing strategies of AC Milan, Lazio, Genoa and Sampdoria. According to Corriere della Sera, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi and Bari president Gianluca Paparesta have been questioned on suspicion of illegally balancing the clubs' books thanks to the help of Infront.
The investigation is believed to stem from the arrest Friday of a Lugano-based accountant, Andrea Baroni, whose company T&F (Tax and Finance) reportedly boasts Infront among its clients. Corriere della Sera said Baroni was arrested on suspicion of illegally laundering the proceeds from crimes of tax evasion on behalf of several clients in Italy. Infront added in its statement: "Infront has and never had whatsoever business relationships or involvements with the Swiss consultancy company Tax & Finance and/or Mr. Andrea Baroni."