x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Portuguese authorities accuse Brazil coach Scolari of tax fraud and money laundering

Authorities raise questions over payment coach received during time leading Portugal

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, pictured during a training session in Basel, Switzerland, on August 13, 2013, could spend up to 17 years in prison if convicted of tax fraud and money laundering. Georgios Kefalas / AP Photo
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, pictured during a training session in Basel, Switzerland, on August 13, 2013, could spend up to 17 years in prison if convicted of tax fraud and money laundering. Georgios Kefalas / AP Photo

LISBON, Portugal // Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is under criminal investigation in Portugal for suspected tax fraud and money laundering, according to US court documents.

Portuguese tax authorities suspect €7.4 million (Dh37.3 million) that were transferred from Portugal to a bank in Miami between 2003 and 2008, when Scolari was coach of Portugal’s national team, were local income that the Brazilian did not declare.

A US district judge last week granted Portugal’s request for a series of Miami bank accounts to be examined, Florida court documents show. An assistant US attorney was placed in charge of collecting the evidence.

Tax fraud and money laundering together carry a maximum penalty of 17 years in prison in Portugal, and the investigation is an unwelcome distraction for the Brazil coach as his country prepares to host the World Cup.

Scolari, 65, denied any wrongdoing after the documents were first reported on Monday by OffshoreAlert, a Florida-based website specialising in fraud investigations.

“I have correctly filed all my tax returns. In all the countries where I’ve worked, I’ve always declared my income,” Scolari said in a statement on Tuesday.

“If anything is wrong, it’s not my fault. I hope justice gets to the bottom of the facts.”

Officials at the Portuguese Football Federation, which employed Scolari as national team coach, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Portuguese investigators want to know who were the “real beneficiaries” of numerous payments made into the Miami accounts during the six-year period.

The money went to accounts held by Netherlands-based Flamboyant Sports CV, London-based Chaterella Investors Limited and Taliston Financial Corp, a British Virgin Islands company, according to prosecutors.

Those companies owned, at various times, non-exclusive rights to the use of Scolari’s name, image and voice, they say. Transfers were also made to Miami accounts in the name of Scolari himself and of his son Leonardo.

The investigators suspect Scolari used those companies and bank accounts to hide income from Portuguese tax authorities.

Portuguese investigators sent their initial request for assistance to the US Justice Department in Washington in late 2012. It was not clear why the request was submitted to a judge only last week. The judge endorsed the request last Thursday.

To help pay the salary of a World Cup-winning coach – and to prevent him from being poached by other clubs and countries which offered him contracts, including England – the Portuguese federation signed multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals, including with sports manufacturer Nike and two Portuguese banks.

Scolari, whose salary in Portugal was never made public, appeared in advertising campaigns.

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