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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 15, 2006

Juve shares dive as official faces prosecutors

ROME, May 15 (Reuters) - Shares in Italian soccer champions Juventus plunged and were suspended on Monday as one of the club's key officials faced prosecutors in a match-fixing probe that has stunned the nation.

Juventus won the Italian league for the second season in a row on Sunday but Franco Carraro, the former head of the Football Federation who resigned last week, said the title may be only provisional due to the various legal probes under way.

If found guilty of involvement in match-fixing - even attempting to influence results - Juve could be stripped of their last two titles and demoted to Serie B.

Fears of such a punishment for Juventus, one of four top clubs whose officials are under investigation, devastated shares which were indicated down 26 percent after they were suspended for excessive losses.

Juve shares have lost over a quarter of their value in the past three trading days.

The official at the centre of the scandal, Juve general manager Luciano Moggi, fought back tears as he announced his resignation live on TV on Sunday after Juve's 2-0 victory over Reggina clinched a record 29th league title.

On Monday, the man once known as 'Lucky Luciano' because of his influential position in Italy's most successful team, flew in to Rome to face questions from prosecutors.

Moggi arrived 40 minutes late for the meeting in a police headquarters in central Rome, dodging waiting media by arriving at a back street entrance with his legal team in a black Mercedes.

Juve's entire board resigned last week after transcripts of phone taps featuring Moggi were published in the press.

In the conversations, Moggi discussed specific refereeing appointments with senior Football Federation officials and bragged about locking a referee in the changing room after a game in which the official awarded a penalty against Juventus.

'Now I will think only about defending myself from all the malice that has been said about me,' Moggi said in his resignation statement.

Before Sunday's clincher, outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns rivals AC Milan, said his club, which finished second in the past two seasons, should be awarded the last two titles.

Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina, owned by Diego Della Valle, head of luxury shoe maker Tod's, are the other three clubs under investigation.

Public prosecutors in Naples have placed 41 people under investigation, including Moggi, other club and federation officials, and referees. The Football Federation has also opened an investigation.

Financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore has estimated Juventus could lose 120 million euros in television and sponsorship income if forced out of the top league.

On Tuesday, the Italian Olympic Committee will decide whether to appoint a 'commissar' to run the Football Federation until a new leadership is elected.

Former AC Milan and Italy player Gianni Rivera, now a centre-left politician, has emerged as an early favourite for the post.

Rivera, who has rarely seen eye-to-eye with Berlusconi, has already won the backing of Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, who said: 'He is the right man for the job.'

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