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6 April 2014, 05:52
Massimo Cellino has won his appeal against a Football League decision to block his takeover of Leeds United.
The Championship club's current owners Gulf Finance House Capital, and Cellino, agreed a deal two months ago for the Miami-based Italian's company, Eleonora Sport, to buy 75 % of Leeds' shares.
Cellino was disqualified under the League's owners' and directors' test after being convicted of a tax offence last month in a court in Sardinia.
The offence related to the non-payment of import duties on his yacht and resulted in a fine of €600,000 euros (£500,800) and the confiscation of the boat.
Cellino's lawyers had argued that because the Cagliari owner had appealed against his tax conviction, he is considered not guilty under Italian law. That appeal process could take up to nine months.
A Football League statement read:
"An independent QC has overturned the decision by the Board of The Football League that Massimo Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under its Owners' and Directors' Test.
This was never about individual personalities, but instead was a matter in which we were obliged to uphold the integrity of our regulations having considered the issue in detail with our advisors.
It was always an extremely complex matter in which a different interpretation of a judgment made under Italian law could lead to an entirely different outcome in the context of our regulations. Ultimately this has proven to be the case.
The independent QC has concluded that Mr Cellino's recent conviction in the Sardinian Court did not involve conduct that would 'reasonably be considered to be dishonest' based on information available to him at the current time.
The Football League will now consider the findings of the hearing.''
A Football League spokesman said:
"We are disappointed at the outcome of the appeal hearing, however we would like to thank the independent QC for his diligence in reviewing this decision."
UPDATED 24th March 2014
Italian businessman Massimo Cellino has been stopped from buying a majority stake in Championship club Leeds United.
The Football League's announced that he's failed the 'owners and directors test'.
Cellino was recently found guilty by a court in Sardinia of the non-payment of import duties.
This breaks the Football League's test of whether an owner has been convicted of an act considered to be dishonest.
The decision leaves Leeds in a state of limbo over its future ownership - Cellino has already paid more than £2million into the club.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the league's board on Sunday evening.
Cellino has 14 days to appeal the decision.
The league said in a statement: “Mr Cellino was recently found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a Court in Sardinia of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat. This resulted in a fine of 600,000 euros (£500,800), an order for the payment of trial costs and the confiscation of the boat in question.
“Having fully considered the matter, the board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its owners' and directors' test.
"The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.''