Benfica, Porto, Sporting offices searched in corruption probe

Portuguese prosecutors and tax authorities investigating €58 million ($62.9m) in illegal payments relating to transfer deals carried out 60 searches mainly in Lisbon and Porto on Wednesday, including at the offices of leading clubs Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting CP.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DCIAP) said the searches had been carried out on business premises, including the offices of lawyers and accountants, as well as residences.

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“The inquiries investigate alleged crimes of tax fraud, fraud against social security and money laundering connected with the signing or renewal of sports labor contracts, payment of commissions, and financial circuits involving intermediaries in these businesses, as well as the use of image rights,” the prosecutors office said in a statement, adding that the investigations related to events between 2014 and 2022 and have “strong international impact.”

“There are indications of profit-generating crime in acquiring assets, against the tax authority and social security that are valued at more than 58 million euros,” it said.

The clubs have confirmed their offices were searched and said they were collaborating with the authorities.

The raids were part of a large investigation called “Offside” which started in 2015 after alerts from the Portuguese banking system about suspicious transactions of millions of euros.

More than 100 searches have been carried out in offices, residences and soccer clubs in recent years.

Luis Filipe Vieira resigned as president of Lisbon club Benfica in 2021 after being detained as part of an investigation into alleged tax fraud and money laundering.