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By ESPN Staff

Inter deny spying on former Serie A referee

ROME, Sept 27 (Reuters) - The president of Italian champions Inter Milan has denied allegations that his club paid a firm of private investigators to spy on one of the referees involved in the Serie A match-fixing scandal.

'I can confirm that there have never been instructions to follow anyone,' Massimo Moratti was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport's website on Wednesday.

The claims against Inter were made earlier this week by former referee Massimo De Santis, who said that in 2002 the club employed a firm to follow him, take photographs of him and tap his phone line.

In July, De Santis was banned for four years after being found guilty of conspiring to rig Serie A matches in the 2004-05 season.

'If we had got to the bottom of this back then, maybe two years ago we would have sorted out our problems, instead of having to wait two more years,' continued Moratti.

In Italy it is illegal to tap phone lines without the permission of a magistrate.

The Italian Football Federation has not revealed whether it plans to open an investigation into De Santis's claims.

If they turn out to be true, Inter could be charged with violating the laws that govern 'fair conduct' - an offence that carries sanctions ranging from a fine to a points penalty.

The latest scandal to hit Italian football following the relegation of Juventus to the second division and points penalties against AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina drew a withering response from FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

'You can't tail a referee. You must not do it. It is against the spirit of sport,' he told Italian newspaper La Stampa.

'If Moratti had had reasonable doubts (about De Santis) he should have spoken to the Italian Federation'.