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By ESPN Staff

Lippi meets magistrates as Juve's shares tumble

MILAN/ROME, May 19 (Reuters) - Italy coach Marcello Lippi met magistrates in Rome on Friday as shares in Juventus

Juventus shares fell 11 percent to 1.19 euros during the morning three weeks before the national team take to the field in the World Cup.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi said on Friday the scandal "has symbolised to people the depth of the crisis of ethics and how it has entered every sector of public life".

The latest share price drop was triggered by news on Thursday that tax police searched Juventus's offices and the homes of two top players as part of an investigation into the club's dealings in the transfer market.

Over the past 10 days, Juventus's share price has halved and the club is now worth about 145 million euros ($185 million).

Turin magistrates have placed Juve's Chief Executive Antonio Giraudo and its general manager Luciano Moggi, who resigned last week, under investigation on suspicion of false accounting relating to the club's transfer dealings.

Moggi, who has denied any wrongdoing, is already involved in a separate Naples probe into allegations of match-fixing.

Two other investigations, in Rome and Parma, are looking into dealings by GEA World, a sports management agency run by Moggi's son Alessandro, and into illegal gambling.

In Rome on Friday, Italy coach Lippi met magistrates investigating GEA World, which has nearly 200 Italian players and coaches on its books.

Lippi, who previously coached at Juventus, denied this week that he has ever come under pressure from Moggi to select certain players for the national side.

"I've had coaches say to me, 'This lad is playing well, give him a call-up,' and I did the same to various national team coaches when I was a club coach," Lippi said on Monday. "But I have never had any kind of pressure."

The scandal has shaken Italy's most popular sport and dispirited fans as the national team prepares for the World Cup.

On Thursday tax police searched the Turin homes of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro, two of Juventus' best players, who play on their national teams.

The search warrant cited a possible irregular payment to Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam, which signed a 16 million euro deal with Juventus in 2004 transferring Ibrahimovic to Juventus.

Ajax financial director Jeroen Slop denied any irregularities.

"It's ridiculous nonsense," Slop told Reuters on Friday. "I was involved in the transfer of Ibrahimovic so if anybody knows about it, it's me and I'm saying again it's ridiculous nonsense."

Juventus faces possible relegation to Serie B if its officials are found guilty of attempting to influence the outcome of matches. The club has said it is cooperating with investigators.

Alessandro and Luciano Moggi, along with two other GEA staffers, are under investigation in Rome for suspected "unfair competition with use of violence and threats".

Some of the published telephone intercepts that led to the investigations into match-fixing featured Moggi claiming he had told Lippi which players to pick.

Lippi has not been placed under investigation but was interviewed by magistrates on Friday as a person who might have relevant information. In Italy, investigations do not necessarily lead to criminal charges.

Later on Friday, the Juventus board was due to meet to put Carlo Sant'Albano temporarily in charge of the club. Sant'Albano is chief executive of the Agnelli family's holding company, Ifil , which controls the club.