LONDON • Even as Everton celebrated a great comeback to beat Watford 3-2 and escape the Premier League drop zone on Sunday, the club's majority owner Farhad Moshiri was on the defensive.
The businessman has insisted he purchased a major stake in Everton solely with his own funds after a BBC probe into his relationship with Alisher Usmanov, a shareholder in league rivals Arsenal.
Sunday's edition of the BBC's Panorama current affairs programme investigating the ownership of the Liverpool club was based on a huge new leak of financial documents dubbed the "Paradise Papers".
Moshiri and Usmanov jointly held a 30 per cent stake in Arsenal before Moshiri sold his shares to Usmanov, Panorama said.
Subsequently, Moshiri purchased a 49.9 per cent stake in Everton. Panorama raised the question of whether an alleged gift from Usmanov had financed Moshiri's holding in Arsenal, and as a result, effectively financed the latter's investment in Everton.
The league integrity rules bar anyone who holds at least 10 per cent of one member club from having any shares in another.
However, Moshiri insisted the money used to buy his stake in Everton was his alone after Panorama asked him if it had originated from Usmanov.
The year Everton last came from 2-0 down to win in the Premier League.
"Of course it didn't," he said. "It came from me. I had 10 per cent in a conglomerate way before I bought (into) Arsenal. That's my money."
He added: "A gift makes it yours. If it is a loan, you owe the money back to him; if it's a gift, it is yours."
Iranian-born Moshiri said neither a loan nor a gift lay behind his purchase of the Everton holding.
In response, the league issued a statement regarding its rules on club ownership while refusing to discuss "confidential information about clubs or individuals".
Leighton Baines had temporarily lifted the gloom at Goodison Park with his stoppage-time penalty. It was the first time since a 1994 clash with Wimbledon that Everton have overturned a two-goal deficit to win a league game.
Richarlison and Christian Kabasele put Watford 2-0 ahead with 25 minutes left before Oumar Niasse and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored. In a remarkable climax, former Everton midfielder Tom Cleverley missed a Watford penalty in the 11th minute of added time.
Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth said: "You can imagine the emotions. it would have been gut-wrenching if that (spot-kick) had gone in."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE