As we predicted just a couple of days ago, the Italian authorities appear to have declared open season on Italian MotoGP riders. After Valentino Rossi was stung with a tax demand for 112 million Euros, now it's Loris Capirossi's turn. Officially, the Ducati veteran resides in Monaco, exempting him from paying Italian taxes, but the Italian tax authorities respectfully disagree, and have hit Capirex with a tax demand over 1.3 million Euros he earned in 2002. And this demand comes on top of the arguments over another 12 million Euros in undisclosed earnings the Italian is alleged to owe tax over for the period between 1995 and 2000.
Carlo Pernat, Capirossi's manager, is adamant that the whole business is nonsense. "It's completely absurd," Pernat told La Gazzetta dello Sport, "Loris genuinely lives in Monaco. I don't understand how they expect to make this claim stick. He doesn't own a thing in Italy. Loris loves Monaco so much, his son was born there, he has his friends there. He only travels to Italy to meet the team at Ducati and to visit his mother." Pernat was equally damning about the charges of tax fraud against Valentino Rossi: "What has happened to Valentino is insane. I have read things about him which are completely untrue."
This crackdown has all the makings of a high-profile strategy by the Italian authorities to go after the big names, in the hope of persuading the little fish that they'll get caught if they try to avoid paying their taxes. It's doubtful whether the Italian authorities believe they have any hope of actually receiving any money from Rossi and Capirossi, but they must surely believe that it will encourage ordinary Italians to be a little more forthright about their earnings. But it must also leave anyone involved in professional sports feeling a little nervous at the moment. The question now is how long it will be before Marco Melandri gets a visit from the tax man.