12 October 2018

Five charged in Belgian football corruption investigation

Five people have been charged with offences as a result of investigations into financial fraud in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League, as Belgium’s Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed the huge scale of corruption allegations uncovered by investigators. The Prosecutor’s Office did not confirm the identities of the people charged, but outlined that four people have been charged with criminal organisation, as well as active and passive corruption. A fifth person has been charged with money laundering.

Those charged were identified as follows:

• T.S. – An arrest warrant has been issued;
• D.H. –  He was released under conditions;
• O.S. – He was released under conditions;
• S.D. – He was released under conditions;
• D.V. – He was released.

The Prosecutor’s Office said that 29 people in Belgium have been detained for questioning, 22 of which will be questioned by the investigating judge. A further four people based overseas have also been detained for questioning, and a European arrest warrant has been issued against two people, which the Prosecutor’s Office identifies as U.J. and N.P.

The Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that as reported yesterday, the offices of RSC Anderlecht, Club Bruges, KRC Genk, KV Kortrijk, KV Mechelen, KV Oostende, Sporting Lokeren, AA Ghent and Standard Liège have been searched. It said that various documents and files were seized, as well as three luxury watches. Searches were also carried out at the residences of:

• six board members of football clubs;
• four player agents;
• two referees;
• one lawyer;
• one accounting firm;
• two jewellers;
• two journalists;
• one manager/coach; and
• various accomplices.

The Prosecutor’s Office said that amongst other things, boxes relating to deluxe watches valued at €8 million, jewellery, luxury watches, and cash have been seized. Overseas, 14 house searches were carried out in France, Luxemburg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. Documents and assets totalling €3.6 million were also seized in this simultaneous operation.

Modus operandi

The Prosecutor’s Office also outlined three components to the fraud which it alleges took place. The first relates to the activities of the player agent it refers to as D.V., who is suspected of setting up several ‘schemes’ in association with football clubs including KV Mechelen, KRC Genk, Sporting Lokeren, Club Bruges and Standard Liège. 

It is alleged that D.V. paid hidden commission to himself from his activities as a player agent, as well as hidden remunerations and compensation to players that he represented. It is alleged that D.V. used contracts and invoices headed as ’scouting’, ‘consulting’, ‘commission fees’, ‘provisions’ or ‘extra costs’ to transfer funds through accomplices. These accomplices have their offices in Cyprus, Montenegro and Serbia, alleges the Prosecutor’s Office.

The second component of the investigation relates to a second player agent identified as A.B. He is alleged to have manipulated the transfer value of players in order to maximise his agent fees at the expense of the interests of the parties he represents. He is alleged to have accomplished this by using the services of fellow agents in countries including France, England, and Luxembourg, amongst others. It is alleged that money generated from this activity flowed through the bank account of the former lawyer, L.D. of Brussels, who drew up player contracts and other documents for A.B.

The Prosecutor’s Office alleges that A.B. bought luxury watches to be used as promotional gifts as part of his player agent activity. It is alleged that the watches were illegally cleared through customs so that A.B. could reclaim the VAT.

A third component of the investigation relates to corruption designed to rescue KV Mechelen from relegation to Division 1B, involving two matches at the end of the 2017/18 season. This involves the Antwerp vs. Eupen match on the penultimate day of the season (3 March); as well as the KV Mechelen vs. Waasland Beveren match on the last day of the season (11 March). 

It is alleged that player agent D.V. colluded with four board members of KV Mechelen and accomplices to influence the score of both games. It alleges that arrangements were made with a referee, identified as B.V., as well as Directors of Waasland Beveren. It is alleged that two sports journalists were contacted in order to influence the ranking of referee B.V. in return for his endeavours. It is also alleged that illicit contracts were agreed between D.V and another referee, S.D., for certain benefits.

‘KV Mechelen emphasises strongly that if the club is not involved in illegal practices’, read a club statement. ‘At no point did KVM initiative to make arrangements to influence matches. The club is not aware of such initiatives and therefore dissociates itself from them, irrespective of whether they were personal initiatives.’

The Belgian football association (KBVB) announced that both referees referred to in the Public Prosecutor’s announcement have been suspended. Additionally, the Prosecutor’s Office said that the investigation concerns the influencing of the suspension proceedings of an excluded footballer. It did not provide further details, as the investigation continues.

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