There has been a delay in the Prisma Investigation, but Juventus will still see their day in court which could have severe ramifications for their immediate future in both Italian and continental football.
The club have been accused of significant financial malpractices, with as many as 12 individuals – including the legendary Pavel Nedved and former owner Andrea Agnelli – facing their turn in the dock if indicted.
The Old Lady have already been docked 15 points by the Italian Football Federation, severely hampering their hopes of Champions League football next season, and worse could yet be to come should the Prisma Investigation find evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
It’s not the first time that Juventus has been embroiled in a corruption scandal, with the Calciopoli investigation ultimately seeing them relegated to Serie B. Could a similar outcome unfold once more?
The Prisma Investigation Explained
The Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office has got Juventus in its crosshairs.
They allege that not only have the Old Lady falsified their financial accounts, but they have also used inflated transfer values and ‘secret’ wage payments to game FFP requirements.
Amortization has been a hot topic in football in recent times, with clubs like Chelsea using creative accounting practices to satisfy Financial Fair Play demands by spreading the cost of their transfer fees paid over ludicrously-long player contracts.
There’s nothing wrong with that – or at least there wasn’t until UEFA changed the rules, but Juventus are accused of taking amortization to the level of market manipulation – notably in the sale of Miralem Pjanic to Barcelona for £60 million in 2020.
As momentum gathered that Juve were up to no good, law enforcement agencies raided the club’s offices and training ground in November 2021. The entire board of directors resigned shortly after, despite protesting their innocence.
The central piece of evidence is a literal black book, owned by former club director Federico Cherubini, in which he allegedly outlined how the use of ‘plusvalenza’ (artificial capital gains reporting) and ‘amortization load’ could help Juventus spend big and still satisfy FFP.
But the Prisma Investigation, headed by authorities’ in Juventus’ home region of Turin, have got hold of the book – and now more than 40 transfer deals completed between 2019 and 2021 are going under the spotlight.
Ronaldo’s Secret Payments
In the midst of the worldwide health crisis and with no revenue coming into the club, Juventus asked their players to take a temporary pay cut for four months to help them balance the books – a move which would have saved around £70 million.
There’s nothing legislatively wrong with that if the players agree – but it turns out that Juve’s accounting department were not exactly being truthful.
They reported the four-month savings made on their annual accounts, but it turns out that the players only gave up one month of earnings – prosecutors claim.
So where did the money that Juventus’ accountants claimed to have save actually go? Allegedly, that was spoken for by a ‘secret’ £17 million payment to Cristiano Ronaldo – confirmed by leaked WhatsApp messages and wire-tapped conversations between the club’s senior officials.
It has been reported that the Portuguese ace signed the documents confirming the payment, which means he could be called to the witness stand to testify.
What Happens Next?
The Prisma Investigation and the accompanying legal case against Juventus was supposed to get underway on March 27.
But the case was adjourned until May 10, as information is still being gathered by both parties ahead of what could be a legal battle with severe ramifications for one of Italian football’s oldest and grandest clubs.
🚨 OFFICIAL: The preliminary hearing has been postponed to May 10, 2023.
— Football Italia (@footballitalia) March 27, 2023
It’s not know what penalties Juventus could face until the preliminary hearing is completed, but heavy fines or even a further points deduction could be levied. It’s important to remember that Juve are listed on the stock exchange, which means they have stricter rules to abide by – they could be accused of misleading shareholders if their accounts are shown to have been falsified.
On the football side of things, it would need prosecutors to be able to prove that Juventus gained a significant advantage on the rest of Serie A with their creative accounting in order for them to be relegated – as they were in the wake of the Caliopoli investigation.
But Calcio Mercato, an Italian publication, has intimated that relegation or expulsion from all UEFA sanctioned competitions is a possibility.
What is also telling is that the Turin Prosecutor’s Office has also forwarded documents to legislators in as many as six other Italian cities – that suggests that more Serie A clubs could be implicated in the fallout.
Juventus continue to protest their innocence over the charge of inflated transfer fees, claiming that there’s no ‘objective’ value that a player can be sold for – therefore allegations of such fraud are unfounded.
It’s a case of watch this space for now, but this is a club beset by corruption allegations in the past few decades that continues to dig its own grave.