Rome, July 12: Argentine striker Ezequiel Lavezzi is under investigation for attempting to smuggle out of Italy a priceless 2,000-year-old statue believed to be from Pompeii, police said.
Customs officers found the marble statuette in Lavezzi's luggage during a routine check at Naples airport as the footballer boarded a private jet bound for Paris, where he plays for Paris Saint-Germain.
The extremely rare artefact is reported to be a bust of a philosopher and believed to be from the first century A.D..
"The statue was a a gift from a Neapolitan acquaintance," Lavezzi told police, adding: "I know no more than that."
Lavezzi, who played for Napoli for five years, is under investigation for international tax evasion.
Argentine newspaper L'Equipe earlier said the player is being probed in his native country for tax fraud and money laundering, crimes punishable with jail.
Last month, Naples prosecutors were reported to be investigating suspected "irregularities" in Lavezzi's contract with the club.