In the penalty box

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.

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6 Responses to In the penalty box

  1. Claire says:

    Would love to hear more on the “obvious sort”!

  2. Noted, Claire – I’ll have a rootle. In the meantime, you might find an FATF report on the subject helpful (albeit from 2009): http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/ML%20through%20the%20Football%20Sector.pdf

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    Amazes me how the big fish like Lionel Messi need to evade tax. £3.2m fraud and no jail time.

  4. Too true. I’m interested to see what happens to Ronaldo: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40773640

  5. Phil says:

    Tax evasion of the high profile players I understand (although obviously don’t condone!) – they’re incredibly wealthy, get shady advice and no doubt outsource their affairs to people who couldn’t wait to get their hands on that money. However, the others – the Sodjes and Nile Rangers of this world – is this not just law of averages? Are footballers and money laundering/criminality that interlinked any more so that other ‘high risk’ sectors? There’s many, many footballers who prove the above wrong but there’s always going to be dodgy folk in all professions…

    • Thank you for your comment, Phil, and welcome to the blog. You could well be right: perhaps the same proportion of footballers as teachers turn out to be money launderers, and it’s just the (dubious) fame of the former that brings them to our attention via the media. Perhaps a project for a retired MLRO: tracking money launderers by profession to see if a pattern develops… Best wishes from Susan

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