Benfica football boss arrested on charges of pocketing €2.5 million
The Portuguese football boss Luís Filipe Vieira, president of SAD Benfica, has been arrested and quizzed by police investigators over possibly creaming off €2.5 million in commissions as part of an alleged fraud scam.
Vieira, whose ‘temporary’ resignation was announced Friday, (at least until his name has been cleared) has been identified as being part of a fraud scheme involving the charging of high commission rates through a ‘strawman’ Bruno Macedo for the purchase and sale of players.
The examining judge, Carlos Alexandre, agrees with the Portuguese Public Ministry as to the seriousness of the crimes that Luís Filipe Vieira is suspected of having committed. Both procurator Rosário Teixeira who heads the investigation, and Carlos Alexandre have admitted that the Benfica president has been “identified as part of an alleged fraud scheme consisting of high commissions attributed to the businessman and solicitor Bruno Macedo in the purchase and sale of three football players with the money being channelled from Benfica SAD” which later was allegedly pocketed by the club president to pay off debts that his companies had accrued.
Judge Carlos Alexandre has identified the “skimming off of funds” from the club to the detriment of Benfica Football Club, the former Espírito Santo Group (a failed banking group that collapsed in 2014), Novo Banco (a bank set up to hold BES’ non-impaired assets), and also the Portuguese State (through tax evasion).
Under investigation are crimes of qualified fraud, aggravated breach of trust, falsifying documents and capital laundering in an investigation that has resulted in the arrest not only of Luís Filipe Vieira, but also the businessman José António dos Santos, the Benfica president’s son, Tiago Vieira and Bruno Macedo. All will have been questioned by Judge Carlos Alexandre by the end of today. (Friday, 9 July).
The investigation harks back a decade and the Monte Branco case – a scam involving several acts of fraud set up by Luís Filipe Vieira and his companies at the cost of and damage to the interests of Benfica Football Club and the former Espírito Santo Group as well as the Portuguese State in favour of the legal defendant.
In terms of the State and Novo Banco the charges are tax evasion, illicit gain at the expense of the public purse and at the expense of the Novo Banco Resolution Fund as a result of losses caused to Novo Banco from unpaid debts defaulted on by Vieira’s companies.
Luís Filipe Vieira is accused of helping his son Tiago Vieira and the football entrepreneur, Bruno Macedo in dealing with players’ contracts and acting as middlemen in their transfer “using false documents” with the aim of “syphoning off large quantities of cash” to Luís Filipe Vieira’s companies in Portugal.
Bruno Macedo, one of Vieira’s solicitors, allegedly used companies set up in Portugal (such as BM Consulting and Astro Sports, among others) and also companies based overseas created by third parties to commit these scams. These shell companies as well as the scams and the falsifying of documents were mounted by three legal suspects Nuno Sérgio Durães Lopes, António Rodrigues de Sá and Dantas Machado.
Portugal’s criminal investigation department DCIAP believes that the football impresario Bruno Macedo and the president of Benfica made a deal to ensure that Macedo would always be involved in football player transfer operations in which the commissions were “unduly increased from the sale of players with the commissions being redirected to companies owned by Luís Felipe Vieira”.
The proceeds of transfers of players Gonzalez Galeano and Cláudio Correia worth €1.28 million did not go to Benfica, while the taxes due on the transfers were not declared to the Portuguese tax authorities.
A company called Trade was used to secure the economic rights of player César Martins. These rights were then sold on shortly afterwards for a much higher sum to the detriment Benfica of €1.3 million.
Between 2015 and 2016, Benfica SAD paid €2.6 million to another company Master International. These cash transfers had allegedly been agreed by Luís Filipe Vieira and his ‘strawman’ Bruno Macedo, monies which in part were used to benefit the companies belonging to Benfica’s president Luís Filipe Vieira to the detriment of Benfica.
Offshore shell companies were also created in the United States, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates controlled by Bruno Macedo to receive these funds and permitted the transfer of almost €2.5 million to the companies belonging to the Benfica president.
On Wednesday, Vieira was quizzed by Judge Carlos Alexandre along with the other suspects. The questioning will continue until the end of today with any bail conditions announced.
All told, the case involves shady business deals and opaque financing operations involving hundreds of millions of euros which may have resulted in huge losses for the State and some companies, including Benfica Football Club itself.