Parma`s chairman and 21 other people were arrested Wednesday on money-laundering and other charges, police said, in a fresh blow to the financially stricken Italian club`s slim survival hopes.
The arrest of Giampietro Manenti came on the eve of a bankruptcy hearing expected to result in the club being wound up and prevented from completing the rest of its Serie A fixtures.
Mantenti, 45, became Parma`s third president in less than a year in February, promising to clear the club`s colossal debts.
Police now believe his intention was to use the club as a tool for laundering money raised from criminal activity by passing off the cash as receipts from sponsors and ticket sales.
He and the other people arrested on Wednesday are accused of criminal association, computer fraud, stealing public funds and using mafia methods, as well as money-laundering.
The club has already been docked a total of three points this season over its failure to pay players` wages on time.
Former president Tommaso Ghirardi and club official Pietro Leonardi were both given four-month bans by league disciplinary officials on Friday.
Although there is little doubt that the club is effectively bankrupt, it has been offered a lifeline by the Italian professional football league (Lega), which has offered to lend it five million euros to see out the rest of the season.
It is uncertain however that this will be regarded as sufficient: the club`s latest accounts, approved on March 13, register net debt of 56 million euros and Parma`s mayor says total liabilities, including seven months of salaries, total 200 million euros ($226 million).
If Parma do drop out of this season`s league, all previous results stand and future results are recorded as a 3-0 win to the opposition.