What is it about football and money laundering? I don’t mean the obvious sort – buying football clubs and trading players as a front for moving criminal money around – but rather what makes footballers and manager so susceptible to money laundering? The big story, of course, was Pele’s son Edson “Edinho” Cholbi do Nascimento: in 2014 he was found guilty of drug trafficking and money laundering and sentenced to 33 years in prison – with that term reduced to 13 years in February 2017. But in the past week I have read about retired Bury and Macclesfield Town defender Efe Sodje and his two brothers – also footballers – going on trial for laundering the proceeds of frauds perpetrated on companies in Columbia, India, Italy and Abu Dhabi. In April this year, Boreham Wood winger (and youth international player) Blair Turbott was charged with fraud and money laundering. In December 2016 Southend United striker Nile Ranger (great name!) was charged with online banking fraud and money laundering; in May 2017 he was jailed for eight months. Even retirement from the beautiful game is no protection: in September 2016 the Swiss authorities launched an investigation into suspected fraud and money laundering by German footballing legend Franz Beckenbauer.
Is it that these lads are taken away from normal family and school life too early, and put into the hothouse atmosphere of a football academy where what is right and what is wrong is less important than winning? Or perhaps they are sheltered from financial realities and never learn to manage money, making them easy targets for more savvy launderers looking for accomplices. Or perhaps, having been cheered by crowds wherever they go, they think they are above the law. Or maybe – whisper it – their brains are in their boots. Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting trend.