Soccer: Maldini acquitted of bribing tax official
'Right end to absurd trial' says Italy, Milan great26 February, 14:57
Maldini, 44, said: "The last three years have not been easy but I've always had faith in justice and this is the right end to an absurd trial".
The former Milan and Italy skipper was placed under investigation in 2010 and indicted in March 2011.
Prosecutors said he paid a Milan tax official to avoid inspections on a real estate company he was setting up with his wife, Italo-Venezuelan ex-model Adriana Fossa, who was cleared before the indictment stage.
Prosecutors accused Maldini of paying internal revenue official and accountant Luciano Bressi regular annual fees of 40,000 euros ($53,000) for his services as well as a "special" off-the-books consultancy for the new company, Velvet SaS, amounting to "at least 185,000 euros" ($250,000)".
Some 40 others, including top Milan accountants and businessmen, were probed in connection with Bressi's activities at the revenue office.
Bressi was detained in the probe in June 2009.
Police released wiretaps at the time in which Maldini appears to be asking Bressi to run a tax check on a potential partner in the new real estate and construction company he was planning to set up with his wife in Tuscany.
Maldini and Fossa have been married since 1994 and have two sons, both on Milan's youth books.
Maldini played for Milan for 25 years, winning seven Serie A titles and five European Cup/Champions League trophies.
He played for Italy for 14 years before retiring in 2002 with a then record 126 caps.
Many Italian sports stars have been caught up in tax cases in the past.
They include skier Alberto Tomba; MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi; and former Napoli great Diego Maradona, who owes around 36 million euros from unpaid taxes between 1984 and 1991, when he led the club to two Serie A titles.
Maradona has just returned to Italy to try to clear up the case.
Other athletes to have fallen foul of the taxman are two-time former world skiing champion Isolde Kostner and another high-profile Italian skier, Denise Karbon, both suspected of putting money into secret Swiss bank accounts.
Ex-Renault Formula One boss Fabio Briatore had his luxury yacht impounded in 2010 in a probe into allegedly dodging EU fuel duty.
Italy has been stepping up its battle against tax evasion as part of its bid to reduce its budget deficit and public debt, the second-largest in the eurozone after Greece's.
L'ex terzino del Milan, Paolo Maldini, è stato assolto dall'accusa di corruzione e accesso abusivo a sistema informatico. L'ex calciatore, difeso dall'avvocato Danilo Buongiorno, era a processo a Milano perché, secondo l'accusa, avrebbe corrotto un funzionario dell'Agenzia delle entrate. Oggi è arrivata l'assoluzione.