Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 24 News List

World Cup: Italian tax police snatch Maradona's bling to pay arrears

THE GUARDIAN , ROME

With a multimillion-dollar tax bill hanging over his head, it was probably not a wise move for Diego Maradona to turn up to a charity soccer match in Naples sporting not one but two Rolex watches.

Hours after he arrived the tax police honored the former soccer star with a surprise visit and a judicial order to seize anything of value. Maradona's expensive timepieces -- one strapped to each wrist -- were confiscated.

Auctioned

They will be auctioned to help pay off debts of US$38.8 million owed to Italy's tax authorities, run up when Maradona was playing for Napoli from 1984 to 1991.

The Argentinian claims the club should have paid the taxes.

"Their intrinsic value is 10,000 euros (US$12,700)," police spokesman Geremia Guercia said of the watches, which he described as being waterproof but having no jewels.

"But when you put them up for auction, saying they were once worn by the world's great player Maradona, it would be normal for the price to go up," he said.

Hand of god

Maradona, scorer of the infamous "hand of God" goal that helped knock England out of the 1986 World Cup, led Napoli to two Italian championships, the only league titles they have ever won.

He scored 115 goals in 259 appearances in his seven seasons and he remains a God-like figure in the soccer-mad city, adored by thousands despite his money worries and problems with cocaine addiction, alcohol abuse and obesity.

Maradona's bad luck continued on Wednesday. The charity soccer match he was due to attend had to be called off because of bad weather.

Maradona, who retired from soccer in 1997, remained in his hotel in Naples and declined to comment.

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