Mourinho and Ronaldo named in £154m ‘Football Leaks’ offshore tax claims

Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager has faced a call for a criminal investigation into his tax affairs over a multimillion-pound fortune held offshore.

An investigation by The Sunday Times, claimed that it has found evidence suggesting that the Manchester United boss’s advisers misled the tax authorities in Britain and Spain during inquiries into more than £10m in earnings hidden through a Caribbean tax haven.

The Sunday Times reported that Mourinho’s advisers appear to have fabricated more than £1m in costs run up by a British Virgin Islands shell company with no employees, in an alleged attempt to reduce his tax bill.

Julian Lopez Milla, a member of the Spanish parliament’s tax committee, said Mourinho’s tax case should be reopened. “I will call on the authorities to reopen the case and investigate whether Mourinho has committed the criminal offence of tax fraud,” he said. And Meg Hillier MP, chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, also told The Sunday Times: “These revelations are extraordinary and warrant a close examination by the UK tax authorities.”

A spokesman for Mourinho said there could be “no suggestion whatsoever” that he had committed a criminal offence.

‘Football Leaks’

A series of fresh offshore tax related leaks emerged at the end of last week, the first centring on an alleged system of tax avoidance set up by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, via his company Gestifute.

The agency allegedly hid £154m, (€185m) from tax authorities through a network of offshore accounts and companies in Ireland, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Switzerland.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Mourinho allegedly moved large sums to the British Virgin Islands.

The documents claim to show that Ronaldo could have “hidden €150m euros in tax havens in Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands”.

One of the papers in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium, the Dutch NRC, alleges that Ronaldo moved €63.5m to the British Virgin Islands at the end of 2014 and that Mourinho moved €12m into a Swiss account owned by a British Virgin Islands company.

Both Ronaldo and Mourinho have denied the claims. Gestifute said in a statement: “Any insinuation or accusation made to Cristiano Ronaldo or Jose Mourinho over the commission of a tax offence will be reported to the legal authorities and prosecuted.”

A group of 12 European newspapers said it intends to disclose over the next three weeks the results of investigations, based on 18 million documents of leaked data, into widespread alleged corruption within world football under the name “Football Leaks”.

HMRC statement

A source at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) told International Investment that it would seek evidence to determine whether to begin an investigation, but refused to discuss any details of any potential case against Mourinho.

The HMRC spokesman said: “We take seriously allegations that customers or their agents may have acted dishonestly in the course of an inquiry, and can reopen closed cases if we suspect this has happened.

“We don’t talk  about named individuals. We take all allegation of tax evasion extremely seriously and always investigate allegations of fraud together with any intelligence provided. Tax evasion comes at a very high cost to the evader and can mean a criminal record and in the most serious cases a prison sentence.

 “HMRC carefully scrutinises the arrangements between football clubs and their employees in respect of any image right payments to make sure the right tax is paid – in recent years we have identified more than £80m in additional tax payable from clubs, players and agents,” the spokesperson said.

The Sunday Times article added that it does not know how much Mourinho understood of the detail of his tax structures. However, his signature is alleged to appear on what it calls “a crucial document” setting out the apparently fabricated commission sent to the Spanish tax authorities.

In the UK, a number of footballers are facing potential further tax bills, including, as reported, England captain Wayne Rooney, over tax issues relating to film investment funds.

An increasing number of football players based in Spain are being investigated by Spanish tax authorities in recent years, including Barcelona stars Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Prison sentence

In July, Argentinean footballer Messi and his father were sentenced to 21 months in prison by a Spanish court for tax fraud over €4.1m the pair had placed in tax havens in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009.

Neymar and his father are also facing a two-year prison sentence and a $10.6m fine on corruption charges related to alleged irregularities during his transfer from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona in 2013. They have denied wrongdoing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Robinson
Deputy Editor, International Investment and Head of Video at Open Door Media Publishing. A fully qualified journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years' financial services experience, both as journalist and originally as an IFA.

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