A “criminal plan” to “control” Granada and “defraud” millions of people with the transfer of footballers | Sports

Italian businessman Gino Pozzo, accused of landing at Granada CF, during an English match at Watford, in 2019.Richard Heathcote (Getty Images)

Behind the accounts of Granada CF lie the darkest sides of football: a desire for “illicit” money, “opaque” corporate structures, a lack of “ethical culture”… This is the big conclusion to which reached the prosecution. in Operation Líbero, a judicial investigation targeting Gino Pozzo, owner of the English club Watford and member of the clan that controls Italian Udinese, and Enrique Pina Campuzano, alias Quique Pinathe businessman who chaired the Andalusian team from 2009 to 2016. According to the public prosecutor, who is asking for 12 years in prison against them, both executed a “long-term criminal plan” to take control of the club and swindle millions. of the Treasury through “complex” money movements linked to the signing of players through a network of companies.

After more than five years of investigation, the prosecution has already put its indictment on the table in this summary, awaiting trial (the investigator issued an order a few days ago to open a hearing) and which was promoted by the National Court. An investigation that resulted in the preventive imprisonment of Pina in 2018. “The defendants launched a long-term criminal plan which, starting from the takeover of Granada CF in 2009 and through the execution of a strategy complex, would allow them to realize the capital gains that the club obtained through the transfer of professional footballers were artificially transferred to Luxembourg and were not taxed in Spain, thus obtaining a notable economic benefit to the detriment of the national public treasury “, summarizes the document signed by Anticorrupción, to which EL PAÍS had access. To do this, adds the public prosecutor, the suspects “emptied the club’s treasury” and “simulated” that they needed a source of financing through a Luxembourg company, Fifteen Securitisation, which allowed the Andalusian team “to undertake the signing of a group of professional players in exchange for 95% of the amount of their future transfers to other clubs .

In this way, while in the sporting field the meteoric rise of Granada was taking shape – which in just two years went from the Second B to the First Division, where it was consolidated -, in the offices a so-called machinery with tentacles was being created (in Italy, Luxembourg or the United Arab Emirates) to “hide” from the authorities data and profits from the buying and selling of players. Anticorruption estimates that at least almost €9.5 million was not paid to the Treasury for 2013, 2014 and 2015 corporate taxes.

In its letter, the prosecution demands 12 years in prison for Pozzo, Pina and the two other defendants: Raffaele de la Riva, director of the Luxembourg company used as an alleged cover; and Jordi Trilles, collaborator of the Italian manager and former Granada advisor. The fight against corruption also demands that million-dollar fines be imposed on everyone: 36.5 million euros on the son of the owner of Udinese, whom they name as the ringleader; and 27.5 million to the other three, which he defines as “cooperators”. For its part, the public prosecutor asks the National Court to order Granada, as a legal entity, to pay a fine of nearly 27 million euros for three tax offenses. In addition, they are all asked to pay the nearly 9.5 million (plus interest) defrauded in installments of corporate tax.

Sources close to Enrique Pina insist that the accusations are unfounded and that, in the case of the Spanish businessman, he was solely dedicated to sports management. Furthermore, they recall that the investigating judge archived the file, which was then reopened by the Criminal Chamber of the National Court. EL PAÍS tried unsuccessfully to obtain Pozzo’s version through the English club he owns.

In the center, arms crossed, Enrique Pina, in the Granada FC authorities’ box, in 2014.

This legal process especially puts Quique Pina on the ropes. As reported by EL PAÍS, the National Court has already sentenced him to nine months in prison at the end of 2022 for having plotted a parallel plot, with his parents and his sister, to avoid paying the 3.2 million euros that ‘they had to pay into the public treasury. former manager of CF Ciudad de Murcia, which the businessman also chaired. In this case (a derivative of this Operation Líbero which surrounds Pozzo), Pina decided to conclude an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office to guarantee a minimum sentence – which would avoid him going to prison -, thus admitting the “maneuvers of property dump” that he tried to hide his fortune while leading a busy life – which included enjoying high-end vehicles (Porsche, Aston Martin…) or a 500,000 euro yacht called Elf—.

Takeover of Granada

The story of Anticorrupción places the origin of the plot in 2009, when Granada was sunk in the second division B of Spanish football and was going through significant “economic difficulties that jeopardized its continuity”. The club’s managers at the time sought, through bankruptcy proceedings, to create an “adequate scenario” to resolve the problems and thus be able to launch a new “economically viable” sporting project. A breeding ground which led to the landing of Gino Pozzo and his collaborators through a “set of opaque structures”.

According to the prosecution, the suspects developed a plan aimed first at taking “control of the bankruptcy process” – by acquiring “a significant percentage of the loans” carried by the club – which would allow them a posteriori rise to the top of the Andalusian team. To do this, they would have used a company linked to Pozzo, Daxian 2009 SL, in which Pina was placed as administrator, who would later be named president of Granada and given “full powers” ​​in sporting matters. The name of Pina, a former footballer who never reached the elite, already resonated in the offices at that time because of his career at the head of Ciudad de Murcia. The prosecution emphasizes that all these maneuvers, which were followed to the “millimeter”, are detailed in an email intercepted from De la Riva and sent to Pozzo, among others.

The alleged “criminal” group, already infiltrated, requested to execute the bankruptcy procedure and immediately began to deploy the first “accounting tricks”. For example, it acquired the rights to 12 players in the team through a company based in the United Arab Emirates – for which a price of 8.6 million euros was agreed – according to the deed of accusation, “with a view to future conversion”. of the club into a Sports Limited Company” and with the aim of “artificially reducing the minimum amount of share capital” which would be required.

“Fraud strategy”

Once this phase was completed and the club was under control, the suspects would have activated the second part of the plan and began to “materialize the fraudulent strategy”. According to Anti-Corruption, they used a network of “instrumental” companies to “empty the club’s treasury” and claim that it needed an external financing channel to acquire the players’ rights, which was covered by the Luxembourg company Fifteen Securitisation. However, the “major part” of the funds provided by this company actually came from Grenada itself, from where they were previously mined.

“Once this scenario was created, the fraudulent strategy was implemented through the planned execution of a set of signing and transfer operations of professional footballers,” continues the prosecution’s indictment, which adds : “To this end, the defendants had to carefully control a multitude of variables which will affect a large group of actors and a large number of instrumental entities: the contracts which must be signed with the actors, their amount, the dates, the movements of funds that will be used, the instrumental entities through which these funds pass, with the necessary synchronization of payments and collections, and the accounting of operations between Granada and Fifteen Securitisation. “Complex fund movements” which “in reality lacked any sporting and economic logic”, but which allowed them not to pay taxes “in Spain on capital gains”.

Suspicious transfers

The Prosecutor’s Office places suspicion on the transfers of players, at least, from 2013 to 2016, for which the Treasury was not taxed: among them, those of Guilherme Magdalena Siqueira (to Atlético de Madrid for nine million); Daniel Pudil (to Watford for 1.5 million); Allan Marques Loureiro (to Naples for 14.1 million); Jeison Fabián Murillo (to Inter for eight million); Yacine Brahimi (to Porto for nine million, “although he declared for 6.5 million”); and Mikel Rico (at Athletic Club de Bilbao for 2.45 million). Likewise, the emphasis is placed on the relationship between Granada and Udinese, between whom an intense flow of money and footballers has also been established.

In 2016, Granada was sold to Chinese investment group Wuhan DDMC Football Club Management.

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