PARIS, April 4 – Disgraced FIFA officials, suspended UEFA chief Michel Platini and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi were amongst the names found Sunday in leaked documents which reveal offshore financial dealings.
‘The Panama Papers’ claim the law firm of a FIFA ethics watchdog had business relationships with three men recently indicted in football’s global corruption scandal.
Documents also bring to light how some players use offshore companies to bank money from image rights deals.
The findings are the result a year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and other media outlets.
The records show that a law firm belonging to Juan Pedro Damiani, a member of FIFA’s Independent Ethics Committee, did work for offshore companies linked to Eugenio Figueredo, a former FIFA vice president who has been indicted in the US on wire fraud and money laundering charges.
“The records do not show illegal conduct by Damiani or his law firm. But they do raise new questions for Damiani and FIFA,” said the report issued by the ICIJ.
A spokesman for the ethics panel told the ICIJ that Damiani had informed the committee in March that he has had business ties to Figueredo.
However, the panel has launched an investigation into Damiani’s relationship with Figueredo.
Damiani told the ICIJ, through a spokesperson, that he wasn’t authorised to make statements while officials in Uruguay are investigating allegations of corruption related to FIFA.
“He added, however, that he taken a lead in reporting corrupt practices within FIFA to Uruguayan authorities and to the soccer organisation’s ethics committee,” said the report.
The 11 million leaked records from the files of Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, include the names of 20 high-profile footballers.
The most high-profile of all is Argentina and Barcelona star Messi.
Messi and his father Jorge are already due to stand trial in May charged with tax fraud for allegedly failing to declare 4.16 million euros ($4.69 million) in taxes related to his image rights between 2007 and 2009 through front companies in Belize and Uruguay.
The pair are accused of ceding the player’s image rights to the companies in order to avoid declaring money made from lucrative deals with sponsors in Spain.
Both men deny any wrongdoing.
The ICIJ said the documents also allege that Platini turned to Mossack Fonseca to help him administer an offshore company created in Panama in 2007.
Platini is serving a six-year ban from all football-related activity for an ethics breach after former FIFA president Sepp Blatter approved a $2 million payment to the Frenchman in 2011 for consultancy work done without a contract a decade earlier.
Late Sunday, Platini’s communications service told AFP that his entire financial records and properties had been made known to the Swiss authorities since 2007.
It was made clear that any defamatory comments published could lead to legal action.