By Vish Gain for AMLi
POLICE HAVE RAIDED the offices of three prominent Portuguese football clubs in an ongoing investigation of money laundering and corruption relating to player transfers, according to the country’s general prosector’s office.
The three Primeira Liga clubs — Benfica, Sporting and Santa Clara — were searched nearly 30 times on Monday by the Judicial Police and Tax Authority. All three clubs have confirmed the searches.
Claiming that the investigations are of alleged ‘irregularities’ between 2011 to 2014, Sporting welcomed the effort of the authorities to promote “truth and transparency” in Portuguese football in a statement about the money laundering allegations on their website.
Two-time European champion Benfica also supported the investigation, stressing their “total willingness to collaborate with the authorities”.
Prosecutors said they were investigating “a range of cases, all linked to professional football, which could include crimes of economic participation in business or undue receipt of advantage, active and passive corruption, qualified tax fraud and money laundering”, the Guardian reported.
The prosecutors also said: “The investigation is also looking into the acquisition of sports and economic rights by players from national football clubs, loans granted to one of these clubs and a sports company by a citizen of Singapore with interests in companies based in the British Virgin Islands and the use of accounts of the same club and another, for the circulation of money.”
The main target of these investigations is Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira, Portuguese broadcaster TVI reported.
71-year-old Vieira, who is also a real estate businessman, was re-elected as president of Benfica last month, a position he has held since 2003.
The current investigations come at a time when he is already being questioned alongside 16 other individuals, of whom 3 are Portuguese judges, for corruption charges. Vieira was also indicted in a tax fraud investigation targeting Benfica, who have also been implicated in match-fixing, the Guardian reported.
Assuring the public, including fans of the club, that Vieira “remains calm and gives all his time to Benfica, club VP Varandas Fernandes told Rádio Renascença Tuesday that Benfica fans “can be confident that we will maintain the course that enabled us to get here with good financial, sporting and patrimonial results.”
“Whatever the outcome of the process, it will prove the legality of all the procedures that have been used.”
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