ROME Diego Maradona has not been pardoned over tax debts, the Italian revenue agency said on Friday, denying an earlier announcement by the football great's lawyer that his tax bill had been cleared.
"The central tax commission has not cancelled, or declared null, or altered the debt that Mr. Diego Maradona has with the Italian tax authorities," an agency statement said.
Earlier on Friday Maradona's lawyer Angelo Pisani told Italian television the tax body had cleared his client of a tax bill of almost 40 million euros (34.2 million pounds), of which 36 million was interest built up since 1984, when Maradona joined Serie A club Napoli.
"There is a sentence from the central commission... that confirms the annulment of the fiscal scrutiny against Maradona," Pisani said.
"Diego Maradona can return to Italy a free man. He is free from every debt because he was never a tax evader. He said he will return to Naples to say hello to the city, the Neapolitans and hopefully the football too."
Considered among the greatest football players ever, Maradona is still Napoli's all-time top scorer and is considered a hero for leading the club to the Serie A title in 1987 and 1990.
He also led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup and captained the team in the 1990 tournament, when they lost to West Germany in the final in Italy.
Italian authorities have long pursued the 52-year-old, seizing diamond earrings worth 4,000 euros when he visited a weight loss clinic in northern Italy in 2009.
When Maradona came to Naples for a benefit match in 2006, he was mobbed by supporters but financial police stripped him of two Rolex watches worth 10,000 euros each to help pay off the bill.
The previous year his payment for appearing on TV show 'Dancing with the Stars' was confiscated and in 2001 he was met by 20 police officers as he got off a plane in Rome.
Pisani said Napoli and the club's former duo Alemao and Careca of Brazil were also cleared of scrutiny over their tax affairs.
(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary, editing by Mark Meadows)