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Lazio president given two-year jail sentence

An Italian court sentenced Lazio president Claudio Lotito to two years in prison today for stock-market rigging and failing to disclose the extent of his shareholding in the club.

Milan prosecutors had argued that when construction magnate Roberto Mezzaroma bought 14.6 per cent of Lazio shares on 30 June, 2005, he was really purchasing on behalf of Lotito.

They said Lotito, who helped save Lazio from financial ruin when he bought the Rome club in 2004, did not disclose that he was behind the additional share purchase because that would have forced him to launch a bid for all the club's shares.

Mezzaroma was given a 20-month jail sentence and fined 55,000 euros ($69,560). Lotito was handed a 65,000-euro fine in addition to the jail sentence.

First jail terms in Italy do not start until an appeals process is exhausted. Judicial sources said Lotito and Mezzaroma were unlikely to serve the jail sentence because of a 2006 pardon by the government.

"We are shocked and confident that the court of appeal will recognise their innocence," the men's lawyers, Gian Michele Gentile and Matteo Uslenghi, were quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport's website (www.gazzetta.it).