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China firm hit by new forgery claims in AC Milan deal

The Chinese consortium that agreed to buy AC Milan in a multimillion dollar deal this summer has been hit with new forgery claims, local media said on Friday.

In August, Silvio Berlusconi agreed to sell more than 99 per cent of AC Milan to a little-known Chinese consortium named Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing. The deal valued the club at 740 million (HK$6.4 billion) including debt.

But the Chinese group provided a forged bank statement to prove its financing abilities, China’s respected business magazine Caixin reported.

The consortium provided a statement issued by the Bank of Dongguan, a regional commercial lender based in the southern province of Guangdong, saying it would provide assistance to finance the deal.

But Bank of Dongguan denied it provided such a document to the group, Caixin cited the lender as saying.

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The consortium includes businessman Yonghong Li, the Haixia Capital group, and other private and public Chinese companies.

Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing has already paid 100 million to Fininvest, the holding company of AC Milan owner and president Berlusconi, who is expected to sign off on the deal by the end of the year.

The news comes just two days after Bloomberg News alleged that other false documents were used in the initial negotiations of the deal.

The Bloomberg report claimed that Sino-Europe Sports provided documents on “what appears to be Bank of Jiangsu Co stationery, purporting to show transaction details of a consortium member’s corporate account.”

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It added that “after reviewing the matter, Bank of Jiangsu found it hadn’t issued any such document detailing the account’s transactions.”

Fininvest earlier said it could not confirm it had received the documents in the Bloomberg report, adding: “We do not intend to comment on the affair.”

Bloomberg’s claims, reported widely in the Italian media, have cast a shadow over a deal that could see Milan, one of the world’s legendary soccer clubs, following in the footsteps of city rivals Inter Milan in being sold to Chinese investors.

Inter, Italy’s last Champions League winners, in 2010, are now owned by the Chinese group Suning, who bought a majority stake in the club several months ago from Indonesian Erick Thohir.

AC Milan already pulled out of one deal with Chinese investors last year, and recently the new bid was hit by doubts.