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Forgery claims hit AC Milan takeover bid

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
MILAN
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A Chinese consortium looking to purchase AC Milan has been accused of providing false documents during its initial negotiations with the Serie A giants, according to reports yesterday. Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing Co, led by businessman Li Yonghong, has already paid 100 million euros to Fininvest, the holding company of AC Milan owner and President Silvio Berlusconi, who is expected to sign off on the 740 million euro deal by the end of the year.

But a report by the Bloomberg financial news site, which cites a statement from the Chinese lender whose name appears on the documents, alleges that false documents were used in the initial negotiations. The report claims Sino-Europe Sports provided documents on "what appears to be Bank of Jiangsu Co. stationery, purporting to show transaction details of a consortium member's corporate account."

It added, "After reviewing the matter, Bank of Jiangsu found it hadn't issued any such document detailing the account's transactions."

In a statement to AFP yesterday, Fininvest said it would "not confirm" that it had received the documents in question, adding, "And we do not intend to comment on the affair."

However, the Bloomberg report claims: "Fininvest checked the soundness of the buyers through contacts with Chinese financial institutions, and it continues to work to finalize the deal by the end of the year."

The claims, reported widely in the Italian media, have cast a shadow over a deal that could see Milan, one of the world's legendary football clubs, following in the footsteps of city rivals Inter Milan in being sold to Chinese investors.

Inter, Italy's last Champions League winners, in 2010, are now owned by the Chinese group Suning, who bought a majority stake in the club several months ago from Indonesian Erick Thohir.

AC Milan already pulled out of one deal with Chinese investors last year, and recently the new bid was hit by doubts. Sino-Europe Sports issued a statement last week to quash claims it was struggling to gather the necessary funds for a successful takeover. According to preliminary negotiations between the parties, the deal should be completed by the end of the year.

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