By Tony Attwood
Although it might not seem a particular concern to England, there has been a scheme in Cyprus known as “golden passports.”
It is a scheme in which foreign investors are able to get Cypriot passports in return for investment in Cyprus, and has (according to Al Jazeera) attracted numerous investors, dozens of whom were under criminal investigation, international sanctions or even serving prison sentences.
Then even the speaker of the Cypriot Parliament and an opposition MP were secretly filmed allegedly trying to facilitate a passport for a fugitive investor.
So far so murky and nothing to do with football, and although both men resigned, both insisted they were innocent of any wrongdoing. But Al Jazeera insisted that dozens of those who applied were under criminal investigation, international sanctions or even serving prison sentences.
And that looked possible since Cyprus has needed investment since its economic crisis of 2013, so the scheme, allowing applicants to acquire a Cyprus passport in exchange for an investment of $3 million continued, and an independent enquiry has said that over half of the people getting the passport should not have had one.
The scheme has now been stopped, but Al Jazeera has now said that following that criminal gangs have switched to another old favourite as a new way to launder their money: English football clubs.
Al Jazeera (which is available in English in the UK for anyone who wants to watch) says that such is the desperate financial state of many English football clubs, they can be bought by criminals and then be used to launder the proceeds of their crimes. It’s a story we’ve reported before – see the end of this article.
In this process criminal teams based in Cyprus create false identities for ‘investors’ who hide their financial gains in offshore trusts. They then create false “due diligence” reports, and basically run their clubs as primarily a laundering operation, with football being very much as merely the day job.
To expose this Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters posed as representatives of a Chinese criminal with convictions for bribery and money laundering, and reached the brink of striking a deal to buy Derby County.
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According to Euractiv.com Al Jazeera carried out covertly filmed meetings in which it is proposed to use offshore trusts to hide the criminal investor’s money and identity. The man claiming to see the deal through says that he will ensure the Football League approves the fictitious criminal investor.
Al Jazeera’s ‘The Men Who Sell Football’ video was released on Monday evening at www.ajiunit.com and you can watch the whole film in English through that link.
The sale of Derby County to criminals did not go through, it being scuppered by the Al Jazeera broadcast, but there is no telling how many other deals have gone through. We’ve been reporting the link with money laundering for years (see the end of this article for a few examples).
What’s more, back in February this year, we published the article, “Clubs are starting to mortgage themselves. We’re approaching the tipping point”, in which we looked at the signs that revealed just how desperate the financial of some clubs has become.
Burnley for example has been sold to investors in the USA and the ground has been mortgaged to an American investment company.
Sunderland, Derby and Southampton have already fallen are all in hock to the same investment group. And of course most of the time these deals which are often eye-watering are kept very quiet – although I am not suggesting any illegal is happening.
Interestingly details of one of the deals did emerge, and it turned out that Southampton are paying 9.14% interest on a loan they took out just over a year ago. Now as we all know, interest rates generally are being quoted at less than 1% so why would any set of directors in their right mind toddle off and sign up to a deal at 9.14%?
Obviously Untold doesn’t run its own private investigations department, we just publish the news the UK football media likes to ignore, but those deals looked like signs of desperation to us, and desperation is a zone that can eventually be inhabited by criminals (although no suggestion of that in the cases mentioned).
If you have a good memory you might recall “How the media provides a cover for money laundering in football”
Indeed going back to 2013 we offered up “41 clubs visited by police on suspicion of tax dodging and money laundering”
And back in 2009 Money laundering, Notts County, Portsmouth, Newcastle, etc
It is a story that is out there. It just doesn’t quite fit with the narrative that the media likes to project of a lovely clean industry, doing everything right.
Funny ol’ game, how quiet the media can go sometimes.
Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.
- 1: Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?
- 2: How discussions about refereeing are deliberately stifled by the media
- 3: Referees: the odd statistics that are simply never revealed or discussed
- 4: How we have been utterly misled about football: part 4
- 5: Hiding the problem of refereeing is destroying the credibility of the Premier League
- 6: Revealed: PL referees are not 98% accurate but actually just 75% accurate
(Footnote: the first ever mention of gaslighting in connection with football other than in this article appeared in the media just six weeks after the launch of the above series on Untold)