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Fresh contraversy for Leeds United

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Leeds United were embroiled in fresh controversy this weekend according to reports in the Daily Mail, amid claims the club takeover in 2012 may have been partly financed by a fund co-owned by the Iranian government.

If Iranian money did help finance the takeover, that could contravene international sanctions, sources familiar with the deal have told the Mail.

The alleged Iranian funding may defy a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution and is the latest extraordinary twist in the recent history of Leeds, although this publication has seen no evidence to verify such claims.

Massimo Cellino is the current Leeds owner having bought the club earlier this year

Another problem for Leeds and an entirely separate issue from the Iranian matter could result in the club’s current majority owner, Massimo Cellino, being deemed unfit to retain his shareholding. A copy of an Italian legal judgment is being sought by the League according to the Mail.

Cellino bought 75 per cent of Leeds from Bahraini bankers Gulf Finance House (GFH) earlier this year. GFH and related parties retain 25 per cent of the club.

It is GFH’s original purchase of the club in 2012 that allegedly involved Iranian money, sources say. GFH bought Leeds from Ken Bates in December 2012 via a Dubai-based subsidiary GFH Capital and insiders say they were so strapped for cash to complete the deal, they suspect money was temporarily borrowed from another company it co-owned, the Injazat Technology Fund, to get the buyout across the line.

The Injazat Technology Fund is co-owned by an investment vehicle in turn owned by the Iranian Government, who, under UNSC sanctions, have been prohibited from various aspects of international trading in an attempt to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapons programme. There is no suggestion Bates knew any money from GFH was ultimately owned by any party other than GFH or has done anything wrong.

The UNSC have yet to respond to the Mail about enquiries on the subject. Senior GFH officials in Bahrain and Dubai, as well as two spokesmen for the firm, have also failed to answer any questions.

The Football League will not comment on any private transaction in a takeover. In laymen’s terms, the League cannot

Cellino was initially prevented from completing his own takeover after the League ruled he was not a ‘fit and proper person’, following a tax evasion conviction relating to a yacht.

He won an appeal on that decision, pending the release of a detailed judgment which should clarify whether he had been guilty of a crime of dishonesty, or not.

If the full verdict says he is dishonest, the League will attempt to force him to sell Leeds. The League’s problem is that they have no right to access the full verdict. Cellino’s Italian lawyer is the only person, aside from the court, with a full copy.

It has been reported that in the full tax case ruling, Sardinian judge Sandra Lepore said there was ‘elusive intent’ and ‘Machiavellian simulation’ by Cellino. The problem for the League is accessing the document. Lawyers for the League and Cellino have spoken in the past few days and the Leeds owner believes the League are considering some kind of misconduct charge for not giving it to them.

The charge, theoretically, would be that Cellino has failed to notify the League of a change in declarations about his ‘fit and proper’ status. Cellino’s lawyers would mount legal challenges to any charge.

The League declined to comment.

DM

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