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Suspended Giro boss Michele Acquarone plans presser

MILAN, Italy (VN) — Saying he is in the dark and frustrated by a multimillion-euro fraud investigation, sidelined Giro d’Italia boss Michele Acquarone plans a press conference Wednesday to tell his side of the story.

On October 1, RCS Mediagroup began an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities at RCS Sport, its sporting subsidiary and organizer of the Italian grand tour. That Tuesday, after Acquarone returned from the UCI world road championships in Florence, RCS sent him a letter and asked him to stay home.

Two days later, the financial newspaper Milano Finanza reported that some 13 million euro had apparently gone missing, and that RCS had placed Acquarone, chief operating officer and Giro race director, on “precautionary” suspension. Administrative director Laura Bertinotti and chief executive officer Giacomo Catano both resigned, though Catano was subsequently reassigned to a new position within RCS.

The inquiry was soon assigned to an outside company, which began conducting an audit and “further research on the nature of certain banking transactions,” according to RCS MediaGroup.

In the meantime, the company has replaced chairman Flavio Biondi with Raimondo Zanaboni, unveiled the Giro’s 2014 route, and announced the long list for wild-card invitations to the race.

In late October, Acquarone told VeloNews that he had no idea “what the problem is in RCS.”

“Frankly, I don’t understand and I want to return to work,” he said.

Now, Acquarone wants to give his side of the story at a press conference on Wednesday. The time and location are expected to be announced on Monday.

“I know there are people that may think I have a hand in this incident, but I’ve always worked with transparency,” said Acquarone.

Whether he continues to work at all remains to be seen. On Sunday, the website Tutto Bici reported that RCS Mediagroup may have already selected a new director — Paolo Bellino — to take over the second biggest stage race behind the Tour de France.

Bellino is a former track and field athlete and currently serves as the Italian Athletics Federation’s secretary general.

If Bellino were to take over the Giro, he would be only the sixth race director in the race’s 104-year history — and Acquarone would be the director with the shortest tenure. He took over in 2011 from Angelo Zomegnan.

Contacted by VeloNews, RCS Sport declined to comment.