Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dodgy money?

There were some interesting reports in the English press this week suggesting that football has now become the top target for money launderers seeking to wash their dirty cash.

They cited a report from a unit of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which said "Football clubs are indeed seen by criminals as the perfect vehicles for money laundering," because football is "an obvious candidate to examine money laundering through sport,” due to its global scale.

It believes the massive money that flows in and out of tax havens, huge and irrational transfer payments, inflated agent fees and betting networks can all help criminals wash their cash clean. With the rewards of success and the price of failure so massive the report also says that clubs are less likely to report money laundering for fear of tarnishing their image and losing lucrative corporate sponsors.

The report also mentions an on-going investigation involving a club in Italy where "Proceedings for money laundering, insider trading, extortion, unfair competition and other offences are ongoing."

It is perhaps no surprise given the vast sums of money that are changing hands in football. Only this summer Spanish football giants Real Madrid broke the world transfer record twice, splashing out £56 million on Kaka and then £80 million on Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now I am not suggesting in any way that those transfer deals are dodgy, but it is an example of how vast sums of money can change hands across vast distances very quickly.

The desperation of clubs to compete may also lead to them forgetting their morals when it comes to the true source of their transfer kitty. Similarly those clubs who over-stretched themselves and face financial oblivion will be less choosy when it comes to picking a new owner who promises riches to bail them out and push on for success.

This was shown at Man City a few years ago when Thakasin Shinawatra took over at Man City, despite been wanted in his own country for corruption and human rights charges. He has since sold up and moved on.

The Premier League may have introduced a ‘fit and proper persons’ test, which will attempt to weed out any unscrupulous prospective owners, but should that go further with a full and proper investigation of football’s finances?

Whenever there is a large amount of cash there will be people looking to make a quick buck and football is no exception.In fact this sort of practice could have been going on for years, the credit crunch may have just brought it to light. I just hope the powers that be can tackle it as it would be a shame to see such a global sport irreversibly tarnished by crime.

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