ROME (AFP) - A corruption scandal which rocked Italy's Serie A to its foundations last season has taken a new twist after public prosecutors in Naples closed their investigation by making fresh accusations.
Italian giants Juventus were stripped of their last two league titles and demoted to Serie B with a penalty of nine points after being found guilty of match-fixing in last summer's scandal.
AC Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Reggina were also implicated in the affair, but escaped with only points penalties for the beginning of the 2006-2007 Serie A season.
On Thursday prosecutors, this time dealing with the purely legal side of the affair, named 48 people, five of whom were not questioned in the initial investigation, they suspect of wrongdoing.
Another club has also now been implicated. Serie A side Messina is suspected of being involved in match-fixing, although they have flatly rejected any accusations of involvement.
"We have nothing to do with this scandal. And we have always operated with complete legality and tranparency," Messina president Pietro Franza was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.
Former Juventus general director Luciano Moggi, who stood accused of setting up a network in an attempt to influence the outcome of matches, remains a key suspect as well as Juventus official Antonio Giraudo.
Twenty-five referees and linesemen, 18 of whom are still working in the Italian league, also remain under suspicion according to prosecutors.
Italy's national referees' commission reacted to the news by suspending two referees and two linesmen who were supposed to officiate at second division matches this weekend.
Prosecutors also pointed the finger at a total of 39 matches they suspected of being fixed, 15 more than was initially thought in last summer's investigation, and which were all played in 2004 and 2005.
Public prosecutor Filippo Beatrice told AFP Friday that prosecutors would be aiming to act on their most recent investigation.
"We're hoping to be able to bring this to court between now and June," he said.
"There are nearly 40 suspect matches (as opposed to 19 initially). The investigation has led us to confirm that certain top club officials were in regular telephone contact with referees and top officials with the Italian federation."
According to prosecutors, some of the unsavoury acts carried out by corrupt referees included handing out yellow cards to certain players, leading at times to their unavailability for future matches, especially against Juventus.
Naples prosecutors also pointed at a number of questionable penalty or off-side decisions made by referees, made to favour the teams implicated in the scandal.
A number of referees, linesmen and other sports officials were sanctioned for their part in last year's scandal although only one referee, Massimo De Santis, was found guilty of misconduct in the sporting courts.
Last year's affair shed light on the underbelly of football in Italy, however it also revealed the difficuties of the authorities to hand out sanctions in the absence of concrete proof.
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