Prosecutors identify more persons of interest in ‘Operation Offside’

  • Lusa
  • 25 November 2021

On March 4 2020, the first phase of Operation Offside had led to the 23 individuals and 24 companies being identified as persons of interest.

Public prosecutors in Portugal have identified three more individuals and two companies as persons of interest in the second phase of Operation Offside – an investigation into suspected simulated deals between football clubs and third parties, worth some €15 million – following searches of “around a score” of residential and non-residential properties.

On March 4 2020, the first phase of the same operation had led to the 23 individuals and 24 companies being identified as persons of interest, after a number of searches in premises linked to professional football.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Central Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (DCIAP) cited the results of searches in various locations around Portugal that it said were overseen by two judges, with five prosecutors, dozens of staff from the Tax Authority (AT) and around 50 guards from the National Republican Guard GNR taking part.

Of the searches on the premises of sports management companies (SADs), other companies and law firms those carried out at Sporting de Braga and Vitória de Guimarães stand out.

The investigations are being overseen by the DCIAP, with the support of the AT’s Fraud Investigation and Special Actions Directorate (DSIFAE).

According to the statement, “complementary evidence-gathering diligences” were carried out involving FC Porto managers and agents.

“Although they took place simultaneously with the searches that were previously noted, these steps were carried out in autonomy of means and objectives and with the intervention of other prosecutors,” it clarifies.

This operation took place in Lisbon and in the north of Portugal and involved “more than a dozen residential searches and non-residential searches, including the offices of sports agents and two sports management companies,” and in the course of these steps “one person of interest was constituted.”

In this investigation, the DCIAP was assisted by the AT’s Braga Directorate of Finance with collaboration from the PSP police force. In all, 10 AT inspectors and eight PSP officers took place in these searches.

Among the persons of interest in Operation Offside are “football players, agents or intermediaries, lawyers and sports managers”, according to the office of Portugal’s attorney general, which stressed that “at stake are suspected practice of facts likely to constitute crimes of qualified tax fraud and money laundering.

“The investigation is into professional football deals, carried out from 2015, which involved actions aimed at avoiding the payment of tax payments due to the Portuguese state, through the concealment or alteration of values and other acts inherent in these deals that affect the determination of these payments.”

The SADs of Benfica, FC Porto, Sporting, Sporting de Braga and Vitoria de Guimaraes all confirmed that searches had taken place at their premises, and stated their willingness to cooperate with the authorities.