Sun, Dec 31, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Buffon cleared in soccer betting probe

AFP , ROME

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts at the Italian soccer federation, where he was questioned over betting allegations, in Rome on Oct. 18.

PHOTO: AP

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was cleared of illegal gambling by the Italian football federation (FIGC) on Friday.

The 28-year-old, who kept goal for Italy in their triumphant World Cup campaign this year, was suspected of betting on five Juventus matches between 2004 and last year.

Had he been found guilty, Buffon could have been banned from soccer for anything up to three years.

But FIGC chief prosecutor Stefano Palazzi decided to archive the case after a review of the evidence. Also cleared were former Juventus players Antonio Chimenti, Enzo Maresca and Mark Iuliano.

"I knew that I had done nothing wrong and I am very happy," Buffon was quoted as saying by his lawyer, Silvano Martina.

Martina said that Buffon was always confident he would be acquitted.

"He was convinced of his innocence and we knew that it would end positively," Martina said.

The FIGC opened an investigation into illegal gambling among players after receiving evidence from magistrates in Parma.

Buffon, the world's most expensive keeper, came under suspicion of flouting the law on illegal gambling and voluntarily appeared before magistrates in Turin to plead his case just before the World Cup.

He admitted to placing bets on Juve matches, but insisted he stopped when the FIGC made gambling on any game an offense last year.

Buffon's acquittal brought some festive cheer to Juve after a black year for the "Old Lady."

Juventus were relegated to Italy's second division and given a nine-point handicap for their role in this year's Serie A match-fixing scandal.

The Turin club were also stripped of the league titles they won in the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons and were denied entry into the European Champions League.

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