Investigation reveals how soccer can be utilized to launder cash | Soccer Information

English football clubs can be bought by criminals to launder the proceeds of their crimes, an undercover Al Jazeera investigation found.

The investigation examines the grim world of club ownership in English football and reveals how rules are abused.

The men who sell football from The Al Jazeera investigative unit (I-Unit), shows middlemen telling undercover reporters how to hide a criminal’s money and identity behind offshore trusts and filing fraudulent due diligence reports with England football authorities.

It also shows how the same middlemen can use “dirty tricks” and obtain new passports – with new names – for the criminals in order to deceive the football authorities.

Do you have information about corruption or would you like to give another tip? Contact the Al Jazeera investigative unit on +974 5080 0207 (WhatsApp / Signal) or find other ways to contact ours Tips page.

“Football fans should be mad because the investigation shows the … vulnerability of the English football system to money of dubious origin and unsuitable owners for their clubs,” said Ben Cowdock of Transparency International, who investigates money laundering.

“Al Jazeera’s investigation into football club ownership will be of great interest to both the police and the English football authorities.”

The Wizard

As agents of a fictional wealthy Chinese criminal, I-Unit’s undercover reporters come into contact with a middleman, Christopher Samuelson, who helped them buy Derby County, one of England’s oldest football clubs and two-time English champions in the 1970s.

Samuelson is a trust fund manager and soccer dealmaker known as “The Magician”.

According to offshore financial analyst Adrian Gatton, Samuelson was said to have “made an elephant disappear,” an indication of his ability to hide funds using escrow accounts.

This “ultimate man in the shadows” has been the subject of money laundering investigations in several European countries but has never been charged.

Christopher Samuelson is considered “the ultimate man in the shadows” [Al Jazeera]

Reporters told Samuelson that her client, “Mr. X”, had been sentenced to seven years in absentia for bribery and money laundering and smuggled money out of China through Macau casinos.

Now he wanted to wash it up by buying a football club, Samuelson was told.

The English Football League (EFL) Owner and director test bans anyone who has an unenforced criminal conviction from owning a club with a prison sentence of more than 12 months.

Undeterred by the client’s crimes, Samuelson provided step-by-step instructions on how to use offshore trusts to hide the investor’s money and identity.

To hide the conviction of Mr. X, Samuelson proposed that two so-called minority investors be used to “front” the purchase of Derby County as co-shareholders in an offshore company.

They would sign a “declaration of trust” that they hold shares in Mr. X’s. This agreement would obscure Mr X’s identity.

“We’ll just make it”

Samuelson told undercover reporters that he would make sure the criminal investor is approved by the EFL.

“I’ll have an idea how we can structure it so that we can beat the EFL. I can put pressure on the football league, ”he told Al Jazeera undercover reporters. “We will make it. We’ll just make it. “

Samuelson took the reporters to Derby, where they met Mel Morris, the owner of the club, to discuss a £ 99 million ($ 137 million) deal to buy Derby County. Morris proposed to become a minority shareholder.

Samuelson introduced Al Jazeera reporters to Derby County FC owner Mel Morris [Al Jazeera]

Edge of ruin, “dirty tricks”

Samuelson has long been a player in international business. In the 1990s he helped build Valmet, one of the world’s largest offshore trust companies.

His companies withdrew hundreds of millions of dollars from Russia for oligarchs, including Boris Berezovsky and “Badri” Patarkatsishvili.

In 2004, he arranged a deal with opaque offshore trusts for a mysterious Russian tycoon to buy the Premier League club Everton.

The deal fell through after the tycoon’s name, Boris Zingarevich, leaked to the media.

In 2012 and 2016 he closed deals to buy two English clubs – Reading and Aston Villa. Both have been brought to the brink of financial ruin under mysterious new owners.

Samuelson told Al Jazeera undercover reporters how he and a staff member, private investigator and former Scotland Yard detective, Keith Hunter, use “dirty tricks” to seal deals.

During a meeting with undercover reporters from Al Jazeera, Hunter confirmed that he had obtained a British journalist’s private phone record to find the “mole” that leaked Zingarevich’s name.

In the case of Aston Villa, “we monitored what the football league was saying behind the scenes,” said Samuelson. “Of course they didn’t know,” he added.

An internal Scotland Yard report received from the I-Unit shows that Hunter was investigated but not charged by the anti-corruption team and was suspected of being “an aggressive corrupt of Metropolitan Police Service personnel”.

Private detective Keith Hunter told reporters he could get private phone records [Al Jazeera]

Cypriot passport

Samuelson and Hunter said they could help the undercover reporters get a new passport for their client and give them a new name in order to completely fool the football authorities.

“We have done this many, many times for others who I can assure you are in a worse position than your boss,” said Hunter.

Hunter then introduced the undercover agents from Al Jazeera Contacts in Cyprus.

In a series of meetings, a network of enablers, including a MP and the de facto Vice-President, expressed a willingness to help the non-existent criminal investor obtain an EU passport with a new name, even if a criminal conviction does one Applicants should disqualify through the pass-for-investment program in the country.

This examination of the Cypriot passports was published in October 2020 and led to High-level resignations, ME and investigations by the Cypriot government that scrapping of the passport program and weeks from Anti-corruption demonstrations in Cyprus.

Answers from those involved

In response to the I-Unit’s findings, Samuelson’s lawyers said he was never told that Mr. X had been convicted of money laundering and bribery and that if he knew of a crime, he would have stopped talking.

Hunter refused to go into the details of our findings, but said he strongly denied most of them.

Hunter said he left the police station with an exemplary file.

Morris told Al Jazeera that the club was only being sold to “suitable administrators” and that they had not had a “formal relationship” with Samuelson for some time.

Watch “The Men Who Sell Football” on Al Jazeera

Monday 9th August: 8:00 p.m. GMT
Tuesday August 10th: 6:00 AM GMT
Wednesday August 11th: 01:00 GMT
Thursday August 12th: 12:00 PM GMT
Friday August 13th: 06:00 GMT
Saturday August 14th: 01:00 GMT / 20:00 GMT
Sunday August 15th: 12:00 PM GMT