Press releases 25th February 2020

Corrupted football officials cornered in Spain

• More than €10m from ghost football player transfers laundered

Since 2018, the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) has been investigating two football agents linked to one of the most relevant player representation agencies in Europe. They are suspected of money laundering and tax evasion. The operation, supported by Europol and in cooperation with the Spanish Tax Agency, led to five prosecutions. In the following weeks, several dozen will be called for court hearings.

On 18 February 2020, several raids were carried out across Spain in properties linked to the suspects. The investigation uncovered that the prominent football agents were organising fictitious transfers of football players through a Cypriot football club to launder a large amount of money and evade taxes.

The player transfers were only made on paper and with the sole purpose of evading taxes from the lucrative business and serve as a reason for the large money transfers. This undue profit was then turned into assets which the agents owned under a corporate name to conceal their identity.

After the ghost transfers were made, the suspects were using a very sophisticated network of companies to acquire assets, while hiding their ownership. At least €10 million was put back into Spain through the purchasing of luxury assets including real estate and yachts. A Maltese “gatekeeper” tax adviser company was helping the agents and their criminal network in setting up the corporate veils to conceal the money flow and true owners of the assets.

The investigation uncovered that the football agents were part of a criminal network which manages football clubs in several countries, among which are Belgium, Cyprus and Serbia. These ghost player transfers were first revealed through social media and the 2016 investigation on football leaks.

Europol facilitated the information exchange and coordinated the operational activities between involved national authorities. Europol’s experts also provided analytical and specialist support throughout the investigation and on the spot during the action day.

• This media release was published by Europol on 25 February 2020. Click here for the original.

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