Football leaks implicates yet more Portuguese players in scandal that ‘won’t go away’

Despite Portuguese sports promoter Gestifute’s threats of legal action – amidst vows that it is all lies – the ‘football leaks’ scandal is showing no signs of losing steam. In fact, it has made the front pages of newspapers in Portugal and UK today, with new names joining the ‘big league’ of Manchester United manager José Mourinho and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to the Sunday Times, Mourinho’s “advisers” have “misled the tax authorities in Britain and Spain during inquiries into more than £10 million (€11.9 million)” in image-rights earnings “hidden through a Caribbean tax haven”.

“The Sunday Times does not know how much Mourinho understood of the detail of his tax structures”, the paper admits, but his signature appears on a “crucial document” that points to what the ST describes as “highly aggressive tax avoidance”.

Spain’s El Confidencial – a paper outside the Spanish media group gagged via a legal bid lodged by Gestifute – broke this story last week, with Portugal’s Correio da Manhã featuring it on an inside page, concentrating heavily on CR7 (click here).

Today however CM gives the story pride of place – saying Gestifute’s boss Jorge Mendes, “the richest football agent in the world”, is the “brains” behind a scheme that has also benefited Portuguese players Ricardo Carvalho, Fábio Coentrão and Pepe, as well as Colombians James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcão.

The gist of the story is that this is football’s Panama Papers.

The revelations follow an investigation by “media organisations across Europe” who got their hands on “an extraordinary series of data links” that provide “unprecedented insight into the greed and shady dealings of some of the world’s best-known players, agents and clubs”, says the ST – vowing that more revelations will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The source of football leaks was a whistleblower who gave “eight portable hard drives to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The ST describes the whistleblower as a “fervent football fan from Portugal who despairs of the corruption and avarice in his sport”.

He is quoted as having said: “It is time to finally clean up football. The fans have to understand that every ticket, every jersey they buy, and with every television subscription, they are feeding an extremely corrupt system that is only in it for itself”.

With Mourinho now dubbed “The Rich One” (instead of the Special One) – and the Sunday Times concentrating on the complex offshore structure that has helped him dodge millions on his image rights income – here in Portugal focus is more on CR7 and super-successful Jorge Mendes.

Ronaldo is said to have “hidden” €150 million from Spanish tax authorities, “paying only €5.6 million in tax”, says CM.

As with the allegations over Mourinho, the scam benefiting Ronaldo is said to have involved offshore companies, with money being shunted from Ireland to the British Virgin islands and then on to Switzerland.

Paramount was “to guarantee” Gestifute’s clients “paid the least possible in taxes”.

CM claims the system “has been in place since 2004”.

Despite Gestifute’s rebuttal – published online last Thursday – the story has gone worldwide now, with various political figures calling for a full-blown criminal tax fraud investigation.

For the time being, Gestifute insists both it and its high-profile clients have done nothing wrong.

A lawyer acting for Mendes told the Sunday Times that the Portuguese agent is “not a tax advisor and has never recommended any image-rights structures to players”.

But with the heat reaching maximum – and the next few weeks promising further revelations – it remains to be seen what UK and Spanish tax authorities decide.

Meantime, the ST has given a list of all the ‘media partners’ involved in football leaks. They come under the heading of European Investigative Collaborations and include Der Spiegel (Germany), Expresso (Portugal), Politiken (Denmark), NRC Handelsblad (Holland), Le Soir (Belgium), Mediapart (France), L’Espresso (Italy), El Mundo (Spain), Falter (Austria), Newsweek (Serbia) and the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism/ The Black Sea, a journalism cooperative.

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PHOTO: Jorge Mendes posing with his two high-profile clients for a story depicting him as “the most sought after man in football”