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By ESPN Staff

Top clubs and ref in Italian match-fixing probe

NAPLES, Italy, May 12 (Reuters) - Officials from Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina along with Italy's World Cup referee Massimo De Santis are being investigated about potential match-fixing, a judicial source said on Friday.

The source said that Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle, Lazio president Claudio Lotito and Juventus CEO Antonio Giraudo were formally under investigation by Naples magistrates.

Former Football Federation president Franco Carraro, who resigned on Monday, and Juve general manager Luciano Moggi, who is at the centre of the affair, are also under investigation, the source said.

One case the prosecutors are examining involves Juve's 2-1 defeat by Reggina in November 2004 when Moggi and Giraudo are accused of locking the referee and his two assistants in their room after the game, the source added.

Naples public prosecutor Giovandomenico Lepore declined to give names but told reporters that 41 individuals were now formally under investigation including referees, federation officials and a journalist.

The Naples magistrates are looking into suspicions of 'criminal association' and 'sporting fraud'.

In Italy, investigations by public prosecutors do not necessarily lead to criminal charges.

Lepore confirmed media reports that the investigation was looking into 19 Serie A matches from last season and one game from the second tier Serie B.

CHAMPIONS MILAN

Six-times European champions AC Milan are among the other clubs who feature in the investigation, he said.

Fiorentina's involvement in the investigation had featured in media reports and on Thursday the club issued a statement saying they had 'absolute conviction in the (club's) correct behaviour in all circumstances'.

The Dalle Valle family, who own the club, 're-affirm the respect for rules and sporting values that represent the main element in the football project of Fiorentina', it said.

Lazio president Lotito denied any wrongdoing and his club said in a statement that he was certain the investigation would 'confirm the legitimate nature of his operations'.

Referee De Santis's involvement had been widely speculated about and earlier this week he said that if he was called in by investigators he would co-operate fully.

'I am available for any discussions, not only with magistrates but with the sports' bodies. I don't have anything to hide at all,' he told La Repubblica.

The first formal hearing of the investigation will take place on Monday in Rome when Moggi will be questioned, Lepore said.

The scandal erupted last week when newspapers published transcripts of Moggi's telephone conversations with senior federation officials regarding refereeing appointments.

'A tsunami has hit the world of football - I just hope it doesn't sweep away the good part of the game, only the rotten,' said former Italy international Gianni Rivera.