Police in Portugal have raided the offices of Primeira Liga clubs Benfica, Sporting and Santa Clara as part of a corruption and money laundering investigation linked to player transfers.
The Portuguese general prosecutor’s office revealed that nearly 30 searches were carried out on Monday by Judicial Police and the Tax Authority under the direction of the Public Ministry. All three clubs confirmed the searches, with Benfica underlining their “total willingness to collaborate with the authorities”.
Sporting said in a statement the investigation is related to alleged irregularities from 2011-14 and congratulated the efforts to promote transparency in Portuguese football. Prosecutors said they were investigating “a range of cases, all linked to professional football, which could include crimes of economic participation in business or undue receipt of advantage, active and passive corruption, qualified tax fraud and money laundering”.
They added: “The investigation is also looking into the acquisition of sports and economic rights by players from national football clubs, loans granted to one of these clubs and to a sports company by a citizen of Singapore with interests in companies based in the British Virgin Islands and the use of accounts of the same club and another, for the circulation of money.”
According to reports by Portuguese broadcasters TVI, the Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira is the main target of the authorities, with prosecutors also focusing on the transfer of three Libyan players who signed for Santa Clara. Real estate businessman Vieira was re-elected president of the 37-times Portuguese champions last month, extending a reign that began in 2003.
The 71-year-old is already facing a corruption trial alongside 16 other people, including three judges, and was also indicted in a tax fraud investigation targeting Benfica, who have also been implicated in match-fixing.
On Tuesday, Varandas Fernandes, Benfica’s vice-president, told Rádio Renascença that Vieira is “relaxed” over the investigations. “President Luís Filipe Vieira remains calm and gives all his time to Benfica,” he said.
“The processes are with the legal teams, the investigation has to be respected and we will collaborate as usual. Benfica fans can be confident that we will maintain the course that enabled us to get here with good financial, sporting and patrimonial results. Whatever the outcome of the process, it will prove the legality of all the procedures that have been used.”