Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Gang buying cash-strapped football clubs for money-laundering operations

05 May 2016, 10:31

Lisbon -Portuguese police have rounded up a Russian mafia gang suspected of buying cash-strapped football clubs and using them for major money-laundering operations, law officials said Wednesday.

More than 70 police swooped on four clubs including Uniao de Leiria, as well as 22 homes and businesses in "Operation Matrioskas" on Tuesday, Europol and Portuguese law officials said.

Police also raided First Division clubs Benfica, Sporting and Braga although they are not directly part of the probe, named after the traditional Russian multi-layered nesting dolls.

"Active since at least 2008, this criminal network is thought to be a cell of an important Russian mafia group, directly responsible for laundering several million euros across numerous EU countries," mostly from criminal activities committed outside the continent, Europe's policing agency Europol said in a statement.

Police arrested three leaders of Leiria's management company including its chairman, Russian former coach and footballer Alexander Tolstikov, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

The suspects are to appear before a judge on Thursday, the source added.

Prosecutors have also indicted a fourth suspect as well as the club itself and its management company as part of an investigation into "corruption, money-laundering and criminal association".

Europol said red flags were raised by the "high standards of living" of the suspects, who imported "large amounts of cash from Russia to Portugal," detected by law enforcement probing the case for more than a year.

The gang operates by marking and buying football clubs in financial distress through a complex network of holding companies registered in offshore tax havens, Europol added.

"Once clubs are under the control of the Russian mafia, the large scope of financial transactions, cross-border money flows and shortcomings in governance allow clubs to be used to launder dirty money," it said.

This happened mainly through over- or under-valuing players on the transfer market, television rights deals and betting activities.

Uniao de Leiria's team was briefly managed by Jose Mourinho in 2001-02 and it spent several years in Portugal's First Division before finishing last in the 2011-2012 season.

The central Portuguese club then went bankrupt because of financial difficulties, leading to the resignation of 13 players because of wage delays.

Administratively relegated to regional level, the club managed to rise to the Third Division in 2013 and was bought in 2015 by Tolstikov.

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!



Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Jayne Zack
I am in ODM to stay, Busia Depu...

Busia Deputy Governor Kizito Wangalwa told Deputy President William on the face that he was in the Orange Democratic Movement to stay. Read more...

Boda Boda operators in Bahati rai...

Motorbike Boda Boda operators from Bahati Sub county on Tuesday took to the streets of Nakuru’s CBD lamenting over what they term is harassment by patrol police officers in the area. Read more...

Submitted by
Gabriel Ngallah
Human Rights activist lives in fe...

The Human rights fraternity in Mombasa is currently living in fear after the home of one of the vocal human rights champion was invaded on Monday night. Read more...

Submitted by
kel wesh
Poisonous milk powder siezed by K...

The Kenya Revenue Authority has seized two containers with illegal milk powder which had been declared as gypsum board at Mombasa port. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be ready for protests, Raila warn...

Expect protests if meddling with Auditor General continues, Raila Odinga has said. Read more...

Submitted by
Kenya says will return to interna...

Kenya will return to international markets to borrow when it feels the time is right, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said on Tuesday. Read more...