France the latest nation to probe footballers' finances

The agent of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has denied allegations that his client has offshore bank accounts.
The agent of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has denied allegations that his client has offshore bank accounts.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • France is the latest country to investigate possible tax avoidance by football stars, coaches and agents, following the leak of financial information published by media organisations across Europe.

France's financial prosecutor opened a preliminary probe into possible laundering of tax-fraud proceeds earlier this month, it said on Tuesday in a statement.

The probe is run by a law enforcement unit specialising in financial and tax offences.

Mediapart, a French group that has been publishing data distributed by the Football Leaks website, said Manchester United's Paul Pogba, the world's most expensive player, has offshore bank accounts.

His agent, Mino Raiola, also named in the documents, described the information as "inaccurate".

Football Leaks had been posting documents on its website until April, when it started supplying them to Mediapart, a coalition of media organisations.

Mediapart revealed earlier this month that Paris Saint-Germain players Angel di Maria and Javier Pastore received some revenue in Panama or Uruguay in order to lower their taxes in Europe.

Last week, Spain's tax agency requested information from the El Mundo newspaper after it ran a series of stories that alleged that some footballers, including Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, have improperly benefited from having image-rights income paid into offshore accounts.

The information sheds light on complex financial structures used in global football. It has also revealed a lack of regulation in the sport, something new Fifa president Gianni Infantino admitted in recent interviews.

"The problem is that there is no transparency," Infantino said in an interview with Der Spiegel, one of the newspapers to have access to the Football Leaks data.

"It is naive to believe that Fifa can know from Zurich exactly what is happening with all transfers around the world."

Critics have said Fifa, which has more than US$1 billion (S$1.44 billion) in reserves, should devote more resources to oversee such football finance.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'France the latest nation to probe footballers' finances'. Print Edition | Subscribe