Diego Maradona has slammed the Italian tax authorities for hounding him during his four-day trip to Italy.
Maradona has had earrings and a watch confiscated by the authorities on previous visits to Italy and he had avoided the country until recently due to an ongoing dispute over unpaid duties during his time as a Napoli player.
He returned on Thursday for the launch of a set of DVDs, produced by the Gazzetta dello Sport, but within 24 hours of arriving tax collectors were already on his track. They failed to gain access to him on his first night in Milan, but managed to deliver a letter to his hotel, reminding him of an outstanding debt on Friday morning.
“I’m not a tax evader and I have no problems telling that to Equitalia (tax collectors),” Maradona said to Rai television on Sunday evening. “They should be dealing with people who have actually signed contracts who are still able to circulate freely.
“They’ve already taken my earrings and watches. But I don’t have any on me today. They’ve even looked for sponsors who will pay my debt to get some publicity, but I’ve refused because I am not a tax evader.
“I want the truth. The only people getting any publicity out of this are Equitalia, because of me, but they have another job to do and Maradona is not that job. I’m not hiding.”
Maradona attended Napoli’s 2-0 defeat to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Friday night and brought Milan to a standstill when he arrived.
“I played 80% of my career in Italy and, for what I’ve done, thanks to God, I’ll never be a normal man,” Maradona added. “When I go on holiday, I have to choose countries where they don’t follow football, otherwise I’d not be able to relax.
“I often bump into people who say I’ve saved their life, maybe they were journalists sent to Iraq where there was a war on and they showed a photo of me and were allowed to get in. But I’ve never wanted to be an example for anybody.”
Equitalia are keen to make an example out of Maradona, though, as they look to recoup a reported 39 million euros in unpaid taxes.