Italian tax police take two Rolex watches from Maradona's wrists

Updated: June 7, 2006, 8:57 AM ET
Associated Press

ROME -- Diego Maradona had some time on his hands near Naples on Tuesday until Italy's tax police took two Rolex watches from the Argentine soccer legend to chip away at his $38.5 million bill in unpaid income taxes.

"We were surprised he was wearing them because he knows that when he comes to Italy he risks losing something," said Tax Police Maj. Geremia Guercia, speaking by phone from the Naples suburb of Giugliano In Campania.

Guercia said he went up to Maradona on Tuesday evening at the end of a news conference before a benefit appearance and asked him to come to the tax police station. Maradona was wearing a Rolex on each wrist, Guercia said.

"He was very polite, very gentle, very calm," Guercia said of Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title. "When he was leaving he was very nice about giving his autograph to those who asked."

Together the watches are worth about about $13,000, Guercia said, but when they are auctioned off by the tax police, Maradona's name could fetch far more.

Maradona recorded the huge tax debt while playing for Naples in the 1980s in Italy's top league.

When he was led away, Maradona was wearing earrings, which sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport described as diamonds that the tax police also wanted to confiscate.

But Guercia said that by the time Maradona arrived at the station, he wasn't wearing the earrings. "Maybe he had them in a bag, or in a pocket, but by law we couldn't search him," he said.

After a prior trip to Italy, money was confiscated from the pay Maradona received for an appearance on Italian state TV, Guercia said.

Maradona was in the area for a benefit aimed at raising funds to buy an ambulance, but the event was postponed because of heavy rain Tuesday night.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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