MIAMI (AP) Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona can pursue a lawsuit in the U.S. against his ex-wife claiming she misappropriated some of his money to buy Florida real estate, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The state 3rd District Court of Appeal decided that a lower court correctly refused to dismiss the lawsuit against Claudia Villafane. Her lawyers argued the case belonged in Argentina, but the judges disagreed.
The court found that Maradona’s claims are barred in Argentina because a statute of limitations on them has expired in that country. In the U.S., however, he can still pursue the lawsuit and his attorneys have argued that the alleged improper conduct happened in Florida.
Maradona and Villafane were married from 1989 to 2003. The lawsuit filed in 2015 in Miami claims she improperly used millions of his dollars to buy six condominium units in South Florida. She has denied any fraud.
Maradona’s stellar playing career included leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup championship, in which he won the Golden Ball as top tournament player and made his famous “Hand of God” goal against England. He played for several professional teams, mainly in Europe, and later coached the national team.
In the lawsuit, Maradona claims that Villafane was entrusted to manage his finances on behalf of the couple and their daughters.
“Villafane instead elected to misappropriate and misuse millions of dollars” belonging to Maradona and to “conceal her theft through the creation of multiple Florida entities and investments in several real properties” located in Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach and elsewhere, according to the suit.
The marriage was long over by the time the lawsuit contends the alleged misappropriation was uncovered through an audit in 2014. Maradona’s lawsuit says the misappropriation was never disclosed to him before that.
The lawsuit seeking unspecified damages now returns to a lower Miami court, where the case had been on hold pending the outcome of Villafane’s appeal.