Portuguese tax officials raid Benfica, Porto, Sporting offices over dodgy football money leaks
Police and tax inspectors have carried out a series of nationwide searches on Wednesday morning with a number of high profile football club’s offices being targeted, most notably Portugal’s “big three”:Benfica, Porto and Sporting CP as part of an investigation into suspected tax evasion.
The operation billed “Offside” is centred on a series on transactions dating back to 2015 where it’s claimed “that payments due to to the Portuguese tax office have been averted”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and the Tax Authority (AT) have selected priority targets in this first phase of the operation on the ground, which includes searches for F.C. Porto, Benfica, Sporting, Braga, Guimarães, Marítimo, Estoril, Portimonense and other clubs. The operation to seize documents, both digital and on paper, related to millionaire players’ business transactions even extends to the office of Carlos Osório de Castro, Ronaldo’s lawyer, and businessman Jorge Mendes.
The homes of notable figures Pinto da Costa, Luís Filipe Vieira, Frederico Varandas (targeted but for deals not carried out by his management), António Salvador (president of Braga), of the players Casillas, Jackson Martinez, Maxi Pereira, Danilo Pereira are also targets a total of at least six large-scale investigations into the dodgy and obscure businesses on the fringes Portuguese football. These investigations are being carried out due to revelations made by the “Football Leaks” hacker Rui Pinto.
Almost all of these processes are aimed at looking through contracts relating to the economic rights of professional football players, as well as contracts for image rights, awarding prizes subscription fees and commission payments to third parties for intermediating the hiring or renewal of athletes’ employment contracts.
The main suspicion is that clubs, sports corporations, administrators, players, coaches, sports directors, agents and lawyers have resorted to alleged fictitious accounting documents to lie about costs. For example, invoices that do not correspond to actual services provided by the issuer. The schemes vary, they all have a big goal: to avoid VAT and IRS payments, as well as Social Security contributions. At stake are crimes that, if proven, could have hidden money away from the Portuguese State in the region of many millions of euros in unpaid taxes.
The investigation of the cases is being carried out by a special team of prosecutors from the Central Department of Investigation and Penal Action (DCIAP), the Public Prosecutor’s Office body dealing with the most complex forms of crime, which has delegated powers under the Fraud Investigation and Special Actions Department, which is discreetly located in Lisbon. It is this government entity that has a vast team working on the current investigations, which are almost all under the supervision of a group of judges based at the Lisbon Court and the Central Court of Criminal Instruction (TCIC).