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Football and the Panama Papers; you’ll never guess who’s in the mire (actually you will)

By Tony Attwood

Over the past couple of days I’ve been working on an article about Leicester City and whether there is any link between the club and suspected match fixing.   And then bang – out of the blue comes another set of scandalous financial revelations, and wouldn’t you know it, football seems implicated once again.

Part of the Leicester article (still not completed because of the news that broke yesterday) is that when Milan Mandaric was chair of Leicester he was charged in relation to tax matters.  And Mirror Sport also reported last year that Gary Linekar took part in a tax avoidance scheme.

But this is a tangled web and I certainly don’t have independent evidence on either case – I can only report what is said elsewhere.  So with the arrival of the Panama Papers, I’m putting the article about possible match fixing on hold for a little while and instead looking at the latest scandal.

First off I was attracted to the emerging story of the release of millions of papers about offshore tax avoidance by the fact that the British Prime Minister’s father is cited in the Panama Papers (which doesn’t mean he’s done anything wrong, rather that he might be using off shore companies to avoid UK tax legitimately, although it doesn’t reflect well on his son).   But moving on it all starts to get more interesting, because once again football is so very much implicated.

In fact one might say, if there are pigs in the trough then there will be football people putting their snouts in.

Overall the Panama Papers released overnight show how large numbers of national leaders and people associated with them (from the friends of Putin to the President of Iceland’s wife) have used secretive offshore companies to hold the money they have “acquired”.   In football’s case it seems to be often related to the selling of players’ image rights to advertisers.

As you will know if you have been paying attention Lionel Messi and his father are already accused of tax fraud on a massive scale.  Now El Confidencial has suggested that Messi is linked to firms noted in the Panama Papers.  Messi has announced he will sue, and if he does he could do ok in court, given the practice he is getting.

The Madrid paper is said to show the signature of Messi in acquiring an offshore company one day after being indicted over a separate tax case.  Offshore companies are not illegal, but they are on occasion used to hide wealth both from journalists and from tax officials.  And what makes the allegation interesting (if true) is that the case of Messi’s alleged Mega Star Enterprises , is not mentioned in the 2014 and 2015 indictments against Messi.

Elsewhere, as we might expect Fifa and Uefa are of course implicated.  (You wouldn’t believe me if I told you they were not).

Michel Platini used Mossack Fonseca (the firm whose documents are leaked in the Panama Papers) to administer a company created in Panama in 2007 when he was named president of Uefa.

Also there is news of dealings involving Juan Pedro Damiani, a member of Fifa’s Independent Ethics Committee.

Damiani is said to be one of Uruguay’s richest men and the chairman of Montevideo-based club Peñarol, and is shown in the leak to have links to three men named in the Fifa ethics scandal.  The finding suggests strongly that Fifa is doing what many of us have suspected – just coming clean on the scandals revealed but doing nothing to dig deeper to find out what else lies beneath the surface while allowing its officials to find new ways of feeding in the trough.

Damiani and his law firm apparently worked for at least seven offshore companies all of which were associated with Eugenio Figueredo, a former Fifa vice president who has been charged with money laundering.  (And can I pause for a moment and remind you of all the articles Untold published on the connection between money laundering and football, and how large numbers of people wrote in to call it a fantasy, and a conspiracy theory?   I’d love an apology from them, but I’m not holding my breath.

Damiani has also acted in various ethics cases involving leading football officials over the past four years.  He is now in Uruguay.

According to the BBC, a spokesman for Fifa’s ethics investigatory committee told the BBC in a statement: “We confirm that on 19 March the investigatory chamber of the independent ethics committee was informed by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert, about becoming recently aware of a business relationship between the member of the adjudicatory chamber Juan Pedro Damiani, and Eugenio Figueredo Aguerre.

“After receiving the information Dr Cornel Borbely, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, has immediately opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations in question. Dr Borbely is currently looking into said allegations in order to determine if there is a breach against the Fifa code of ethics and decide any further measures.‎”

Or put another way, “A big hole has opened up and another bunch of Fifa execs have fallen into it.”

Damiani and his firm provided legal assistance for at least seven offshore companies linked to Figueredo, a former Fifa vice-president who was arrested last May in Zurich as part of the US inquiry into football corruption.

In addition the BBC notes that two other executives charged in connection with the US football corruption probe have links to Damiani’s legal and accountancy firm.

The problem with Fifa of course, runs very deep, but these revelations do point out something that many of the everyday journalists miss.  And that is that Fifa, Uefa and the rest tend only to answer up to issues that are revealed from without.  They don’t go looking within.  Instead they assume as a basis that everything is fine within their organisation, until someone turns up in court or is outed in a leak.

The FA does the same, and I really wonder when the British press are going to wake up to this fact that these bodies are not capable of investigating themselves.  And the fact that Fifa is the body that the FA and seemingly the British government still supports.

Another person whose name pops up (and remember there are millions of documents here so it is going to take a long time to find everything) is Gabriel Iván Heinze, who while with Manchester United set up the Galena Mills Corp, in the British Virgin Islands (a notorious tax haven).

The Panama Documents were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).  The ICIJ has stated that the documents contain “the names of nearly 20 high-profile footballers, past and present, representing some of the globe’s best-known professional football clubs, including Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid”, as well as “current or former owners of at least 20 major soccer clubs, including Internazionale Milano and Boca Juniors”.

When it comes to journalism and the media, and my regular sniping at both, these are the guys who are excluded from said sniping.   These are the good guys.


You might also like: 

From the anniversary files

  • 4 April 1913: Spurred on by Tottenham Hotspur’s objections, the Highbury Defence Committee persuaded Islington Council to push through a vote protesting against Arsenal moving to the Gillespie Road ground.  Also here

On the home page we have “Insult of the Day”, and the activities of the South Sea Company.

Danny Karbassiyoon’s book “The Arsenal Yankee” with a foreword by Arsene Wenger is now published.  You can buy the book…

  • On line here for £14.95, plus delivery
  • Or by phone on 01536 399 011 using a credit card.
  • Or by Pay Pal to  Don’t forget to enter the title of the book and your delivery address on the Pay Pal site, and calculate the full amount including delivery, see below.
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The book is also available on Kindle.


28 comments to Football and the Panama Papers; you’ll never guess who’s in the mire (actually you will)

  • Gooner Sam

    Very interesting, tax avoidance really is the name of the game for the rich and has been for years, its about time they were outed.

  • Geoffrey Lane

    I look forward to your Usmanov tax revelations.

  • serge

    Thanks very much for the link to ICIJ. Never heard of them previously, but now have them bookmarked.
    BBC Panorama tonight should be interesting.

  • Geoffrey Lane – I have no information on Mr Usmanov – if you have any with evidence please do forwards them to me.

  • blacksheep63

    This is the time for a ‘Fleet St’ journalist to take this story forwards – its about time the lid was blown off football corruption. I’m (like thousands of others) paying £1000+ a year to watch what? A fixed league/s with tax dodging clubs/players, maybe some of them doped? Rich men getting even richer at our expense whilst refusing to contribute their fair share to the collective pot? Twenty’s Plenty doesn’t begin to cut it.

  • Actually this will be buried soon enough. This a leak in some ways and no news in anothers. It’s pretty obvious that all those names names have assets in tax paradise, who hasn’t and doesn’t (if you do have a few million to spare)

  • nicky

    and therefore in crime)

  • nicky

    No mention yet of the co-culprits…the lawyers. These faceless experts in the law (and therefore in crime) are the whiter than white “backgrounders”advising, persuading, cajoling, in sure and certain knowledge that whatever happens THEY will emerge in profit.
    They should be aware that “Vengeance is mine…”

  • Shoddy Research

    Along with …

    This email which criticised Untold and seemingly spoke out in favour of Leicester could not be published since the writer did not think to put in a valid email address.

  • Well done Tony. Good job and thank you very much. I wonder what other murky secrets are there to be discovered aside from tax evasion. Like match-fixing, irregular betting patterns and possible deep involvement of game officials in all these and more.

    I tremble deeply to imagine what really might be going on under the cover of legitimacy and propriety. I also pray that the unseen hand of God protect you Tony in this quest to reveal the truth. These are guys with dark thoughts and desperate hearts.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    It will interest one to know how many Nigerian top brass are on this Panama Papers. It can’t be only James Ibori, the elstwhile Governor of Nigerian Delta State who has been reported to be on the list, would it be? We all know how Nigerian officials love to steal public money and lunder the money into foreign bank accounts abroad, don’t we?

    By the way, what have Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have been whistling about all these years, as they can’t or have refused to whistleblow on the Panama Papers? Or is it only to whistleblow on the M5 and on the CIA intelligence work to subvert the US and the UK governments they can or want, and confine themselves into asylum in the Equadorian embassy in London and into Russian solitary confinement in Moscow as prisoners?

    Oga Tony, please if you have any contact connection and influence on him to influence his starts in form of to advice him which he may accept or reject. Because he might say none of us is a professional and we don’t officially work for Arsenal in any official capacity. Which is true. But if for this once, I’ll be delighted if you can advice the Boss to please start Walcott to lead the line for Arsenal against West Ham on Saturday.

    I say this, because I think Walcott form is looking rejuvenated after his coming on for England against the Netherlands. But he should always has an eagle eye on his marker to sell him to avoid his tackle. Had he done that, he might had scored when he was on goal and poised to score for England. And he was sharp as he positioned himself well to slot in Campbell crossing against Watford.

  • finsbury


    You forgot to blame Venga for the advent of the premier league and all the ills of Modern Football. For the sacking of the sacred cow known as GG, for the likes of the owners of Sports Direct running rings round the football and other various authorities whilst proclaiming that AFC have the worst board in football (my favourite AAAA and their media allies meme…they love to make Arsenal holes of those gullible enough to to buy into their gibberish do they not?), that AFC have the most expensive tickets in Football (they don’t)…for tippy tappy wimpish lily livered surrender monkey ‘continental’ style replacing the glorious kick and rush up and at ’em code variant that has served Leicester and England so well over the decades…pgMOB Rules Football rules OK! Ok?

    ….etc, etc, etc.

  • Sammy The Snake

    We live in interesting times…

  • finsbury

    …To clarify: apart from the scale of operations involved, the size of the skid marks upon the accountants underwear of one or two or perhaps more then a few ‘stars’, has much changed since those halcyon days of El Tel Venebles, and all that moniker implied then and now?

  • Zedsaunt

    Tony writes

    ‘In fact one might say, if there are pigs in the trough then there will be football people putting their snouts in.”

    but not when it comes to the matter of refereeing the EPL, the fairest, most upstanding, the best, football league in the world!!!

    English refs cannot be bought!!!!

    Watching Leicester Southampton yesterday was an eye-opener. 50:50 calls go their way.

    The world is a painted desert. The canvas gets delivered.

    When the big man of Fifa’s ethics committee also appears as a big man for tax avoidance on a planetary scale, the manner of how to allocate Premiership titles in the planet’s biggest casino is a priority.

    It becomes even more of a priority should it be the case that the EPL indeed does introduce video technology for those contentious 50:50 calls.

  • finsbury

    Will any footy hack follow this story to it’s natural end?
    British clubs with offshore owners that are happy to spend three times the going rate on tat, sorry I mean overvalued players. I mention no names. Or broadcasters.
    Imagine a state owned broadcaster attacking a football club for not being popular with, for not kowtowing to unlicensed football agents. Surreal no? It’s the sort of thing that could only happen in Italy. Or N. Korea. Surely?

  • Gord

    The CBC (Canadian (poor) clone of BBC) had an article on the Panama Papers. It hardly even mentioned football. It did think that a couple of democratically elected governments are going to fall on non-confidence votes because those papers were leaked.

    Something that occurred to me, was the timing of this release meant to allow the drugs story to disappear?


    Also in today’s news

    Not relevant to corruption, but is relevant to head injuries in football.

    Apparently the NFL in some part (most? major?) relies on a test of balance to determine if an athlete has a concussion. The news I seen, was that a specific electronic thingy new on the market was better than this.

    It has been mentioned on Untold, how low the accuracy rates of PGMO officials can get. The apparent accuracy rate of this balance test is about 30%. What on Earth are people doing using a test that poor for diagnosis?

    Balance as a test will run into problems with subgroups of people who typically have different balance than the average person.

    A few days ago, I pointed to an article about a recently developed blood test which can detect concussion up to a week after the injury. At far better than this 30% nonsense.

  • Jambug


    “Watching Leicester Southampton yesterday was an eye-opener. 50:50 calls go their way.”

    And that’s the problem isn’t it? There are so many 50:50 or ‘subjective’ decisions when it comes to football, it doesn’t have to be blatant cheating. In effect, you don’t have to cheat at all, to actually be cheating.

    Bare with me.

    Lets say there where 20 50:50 decisions in Leicester’s match yesterday.

    Now taking each one individually, a decision has to be made one way or the other. So whatever way the referee errs he can hardly be called a cheat can he?

    But when EVERY one of those HONEST 50:50 calls go in the favour of one team does it then become cheating? I would say so.

    So without EVER actually cheating the referee is still cheating.

    It is the subjective nature of so many of the decisions that make it so open to this kind of manipulation.

    Take for example the sending off at West Ham.

    From what I heard on Soccer Saturday it was a terrible decision. Then I watched MOTD. WTF. To me an absolute nailed on Red card.

    But we had the following:

    The commentator: Stone wall sending off.

    Pardew: Harsh.

    Bilic: Worst decision he’s ever seen.

    Ian Wright: Definite Red.

    Sheerer: Not even a yellow. (Is he serious?)

    Whatever way you look at it, subjectivity means the referee can neither be right nor wrong. Effectively he is what the consensus of opinion says he is. And that is where the problem lies.

    That’s what is happening with Leicester City. All these penalty calls against them are subjective and it can be argued that on an individual basis each decision has been right.

    But to have 50:50 after 50:50 after 50:50 decision all go in there favour suggests there is something more than simple subjectivity going on here, and that something is cheating, plain and simple.

  • Menace

    Gord – the balance testing gismo must be quite magnificent to behold. Its performance is secondary. Blood tests are not visually attractive so the performance is irrelevant. Sadly that is how many decision makers work. Inquisitive diagnosis is critical for correct results.

  • Menace

    Jambug – so many words just to say cheat! 😉

  • Yes and what about the pen’s that have gone Leicester way. It’s remarkable and from a side who were near bottom from fitness last season they are second on the table of the fittest. Apparently members of the BBC insiders and others put money on Leicester at the start of the season with odds at 5000/1 to win the PL. Now allegations are just that till proven but someone bought 20% of the club which allegedly was not declared to the rightful body’s. I hope a reporter with a set of balls looks into this and let the cards fall were they may but somethings just not right with all of this and it already leaves a bad taste. Football needs to be cleaned out and the sooner the better.

  • Notoverthehill

    Cameron’s father had a disability and died in 2010.

    The story was covered in 2012. Just a repeat.

    The name on the Certificate No.3 is, Messi’s father – Jorge Horacio Messi Perez.

    Tony should expect a letter from the legal firm Cuatrecases, seeking damages for Lionel Messi?

    With the German and United States Governments, not at all pleased with the firm of Tax Avoidance, will the firm sue?

    I am sure Tony is told to be tax efficient!

    Any compensation paid to Lionel Messi, for slander, is tax deductible.

    No Mr. Wenger, excellent!

  • Gord has something interesting about the doping. Two paragraphs about Arsenal and Wenger.

    > “We have had some players come to us at Arsenal from other clubs abroad and their red blood cell count has been abnormally high. That kind of thing makes you wonder,” Arsene Wenger said in 2004.

    > Earlier this season, Wenger (above) said football had a doping problem. After a Dinamo Zagreb player failed a drugs test following a game against Arsenal, Wenger claimed that Uefa’s regulations “basically accept doping”. Uefa’s response was swift and ten testers subsequently showed up at Arsenal’s training ground.

    How many other teams also had drugs testers show up from UEFA? I would hope the answer isn’t 0.

  • Jambug


    I know, sometimes I just cant help my self. My motto is, why say in 10 words what can be said in 100 🙂

  • Zedsaunt

    Keep on keeping on Jambug, 10 words or a hundred. It doesn’t change the line.

    After this weekend nothing changes that line.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Wonder if Arrys dog is in the Panama documents?
    Going to be some very embarrassed people, dictators and business people are one thing, but this will reveal the activity of leaders that are supposed to be of a more socialist slant.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I normally don’t look a gift horse in the mouth , but due to the many scandals erupting all over the place , I not able to take up this great offer at the present moment .
    Anyone with the banking acumen and guile should take this very genuine offer . Wishing you much luck !

    Dear Candidate,

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    To verify the genuineness of this email, check this web page:

    Your email address was submitted to my wife and I by the Google Management Team and you are therefore approved 750,000.00 GBP.

    You can send your response to our private email address ( ) for more information.
    Congratulations & Happy Prosperous New Year.
    Yours faithfully,
    Dawn and Malcolm Bosworth Family.

  • Zedsaunt

    Arrys dog will have its own file. Like Arry said from the dock, he himself isn’t that hot with numbers and such. Ideal for Sky TV and the harbour front down in sunny Sandholme. As for those in the Panama Papers who purport to represent the comrades, I’m shocked. Men in suits support men in suits.

    Roll on Saturday.