Letta criticizes Maradona for offensive gesture on TV
Premier says honest taxpayers were being mocked by rude gesture22 October, 15:56
During a television interview Monday night, Letta said he was not impressed with Maradona, who one night earlier made the obscene gesture on a popular program while defending himself against allegations of tax avoidance.
"I do not like that at all, honest people who pay taxes are to be respected (but) many like Maradona, make the 'umbrella' gesture," said Letta.
The ex-Napoli and Argentina legend made the classic Italian 'umbrella' sign - the equivalent of a British V-sign or America's middle-finger 'flipping the bird' - at revenue agency Equitalia on Sunday-night talk show Che Tempo Che Fa.
The Argentina soccer star has been in hot water over an outstanding 39-million-euros tax bill.
Tuesday, Maradona's lawyer said his client is willing to discuss the tax issue, but does not acknowledge he has avoided taxes. "If Letta, or someone (acting) for him, wants to understand...we are available to come to Italy and sit together around a table," said Angelo Pisani in an interview with Radio 24.
"But we would like to demonstrate...a tax violation never existed".
Maradona, who is now in Dubai, said his gesture on RAI television was "not offensive, just sarcastic".
As millions of Italians are struggling through Italy's deepest recession in more than 20 years, tax avoidance levels remain high.