Prosecutors deny AC Milan money laundering investigation

Italian prosecutors have denied media reports that they have opened an investigation into whether the deal to sell AC Milan to Chinese investors last year was inflated for money laundering purposes.

Prosecutors deny AC Milan money laundering investigation
Chinese businessman Li Yonghong (R) led the group of investors that bought AC Milan in April 2017. Photo: AFP

“As it stands no criminal proceedings have been opened regarding the sale of AC Milan,” said Francesco Greco, the chief prosecutor of the city of Milan.

“Any information regarding an investigation of Silvio Berlusconi is totally false.”

However, Italian daily La Stampa have refused to retract their story that Milan prosecutors want to know if the 740 million euros paid to former Italian prime minister Berlusconi to buy out the seven-time European champions was overvalued in a deliberate move to bring large sums of money into Italy from abroad.

“La Stampa stresses that it carried out the correct checks regarding the existence of the investigation, of which it was made aware by two different sources, and it confirms what was written,” the newspaper wrote in a rebuttal to Greco's denials.

Niccolo Ghedini, Berlusconi's long-time lawyer, claimed that La Stampa's story was false and politically motivated ahead of Italy's upcoming general elections, which take place on March 4th and in which media magnate Berlusconi heads up Forza Italia, the country's main centre-right political party.

“There is evident will to defame and that can only be explained by a desire to interfere in the elections,” Ghedini said.

“What's even worse is that yesterday evening we were warned that this story would be published by La Stampa,” he continued.

“Straight away we explained to the editor and one of the paper's journalists that the story was completely unfounded and false, but the story was nevertheless published.”

After more than 30 years in the hands of Berlusconi, a glorious period which saw the club win 29 trophies including five European Cups, Milan were sold on April 13th last year to a group of Chinese investors led by Li Yonghong.

The consortium took 99.93 percent of the club's shares and also bought out its debt, which stood at 220 million euros on June 30th, 2016.

But the number of investors has progressively diminished in the face of difficulties in getting the funds out of China, where tougher legislation on the movement of money abroad was recently introduced.

Li was forced to set up his company in Luxembourg and obtain financial support from the US investment fund Elliott in order to push the deal through.

Elliott agreed to lend more than 300 million euros, but at interest rates of up to 11 percent and with full repayment within 18 months, according to Italian media.

Milan lavished large sums on new signings prior to this season but the Rossoneri are struggling in 11th place in Serie A, 23 points behind leaders Napoli.

READ ALSO: AC Milan faces UEFA financial fair-play penalties


US files lawsuit against scandal-hit Danske Bank

The United States and a US pension fund have filed a claim in a Danish court seeking more than $1.6 million for lost investments following a money laundering scandal that engulfed Danske Bank, their lawyer confirmed.

US files lawsuit against scandal-hit Danske Bank
Photo: Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

“A lawsuit was filed in September against Danske Bank and its former CEO Thomas Borgen,” lawyer Thomas Donatzky said on Tuesday, adding that he could not provide any details.

The Danish financial daily Børsen, which first reported on the lawsuit, said the US government and pension fund were seeking 10 million kroner (1.3 million euros) due to losses suffered after shares in Danske Bank plunged in 2018 when the bank got caught up in huge money laundering schemes.

An investigation carried out by an outside law firm for the bank found that it could not account for the origin of more than $220 billion that flowed through its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015, much of which was suspected to have come from Russia.

Borgen resigned in the wake of the scandal and the bank closed its operations in the Baltic States and Russia.

“The contingent liabilities related to civil shareholder claims and related amount described in today’s media coverage is part of the disclosure in our Annual Report for 2020,” Danske Bank said in a statement.

The report put the total of such claims at 12.4 billion kroner at the end of 2020.