The notorious nature of football scandals has largely been undermined due to the love for the beautiful game. From FIFA’s former president to recent allegations of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, these scandals have cost the footballing world gravely. But, the institutions keep running despite the mess and we as football fans tend to overlook them. The recent scandal by Benfica President Luis Filipe Vieira being yet another ignored story in the large scheme of things.
The Benfica Scandal: President arrested after money laundering and embezzling allegations.
Portugal’s prosecutors called for the arrest of the head of the football club Benfica as part of an operation dubbed ‘Operation Red Card’. According to Portugal’s Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action, “businesses and financing in a total amount exceeding 100 million euros (118 million U.S. dollars), which may have caused considerable damage to the State” are being investigated.
The allegations have been raised for a while now and investigations carried out has named many prominent figures surrounding the club. Vieira was quick to resign his position following the arrest and the Vice-President and former player Rui Costa have taken over as interim President.
“Benfica comes first. Faced with the events of recent days, within the framework of Operation Red Card, in which I am directly targeted, I am suspending with immediate effect my functions as president of Sport Lisboa e Benfica as long as the time of the investigation. I call on all Benfiquistas to be calm in defending the name of the Benfica institution” – Luis Filipe Vieira declared.
FRAUD, MONEY LAUNDERING AND TAX EVASION
In the long list of acquisitions, embezzling, tax evasion and money laundering stand out. As per reports, the activity by the Benfica president has harmed the club, losing over 100million euros of club money. He has also evaded tax and has deceived two financial institutions in the process, namely Banco Espirito Santo and Novo Banco.
🚨 | President of SL Benfica, Luís Filipe Vieira, has been arrested.
The arrest is linked to an investigation into possible money laundering and fraud. pic.twitter.com/B9eSL166qG
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) July 7, 2021
Vítor Fernandes, the former director of Novo Banco is also being linked to the allegations. It is believed that Vieira’s privileged relationship with Fernandes has helped benefit Mr Viera at the expense of the state.
Mr Viera is allegedly reported to have managed to buy his 50m euro debt for just 9m euros. Investigations also revealed that Vieira’s activities with foreign nations have allowed him to launder the money outside the state. This thereby allows him to bypass tax regulations while also helping him to pocket money.
Tiago Viera, the son of Luis Filipe Viera has also been named among the suspects. Manager Jose Antonio dos Santos and agent Bruno Macedo was also among the list of suspects that face arrests. They are currently under investigation by the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority.
According to a police statement, “the arrests made took into account the evidence already collected, in order to safeguard the evidence, avoid the absence of defendants and prevent the consummation of suspicious actions in progress.”
This is not the first time Benfica and its president are being linked to a scandal. Three years ago, the club was put under investigation for bribing referees to favour them in matches. Benfica is one of the two most popular clubs in Portugal, the other, rivals FC Porto. However, even Porto has not commented on the allegation that has surfaced.
BENFICA SCANDAL – A WAKEUP CALL?
A run-through of the court decisions against Filipe Vieira will prove the seriousness of the Benfica scandal. Mr Viera was put under house arrest and was charged with the second-highest bail amount in Portuguese history. Viera was asked to produce a three-million-euro bail surety. The very nature of the court’s decision highlights the heinous crime that took place.
Benfica is a fan-owned club. The president is an elected representative and although they have a publicly listed share, they do not grant full ownership to outside investors. What this means is that the fans are the focus of pivots of the football club. However, they were given little insight into any of the activities being conducted within the club’s hierarchy.
The lack of transparency within the SL Benfica and among its fans is also a reason for the scandal. Even the decision of Rui Costa’s stepping up as the interim manager is questionable. Although he claims to have no knowledge of the vast fraud that has taken place even though he was a senior figure of the organisation, his sudden takeover raises concern.
Erm … pic.twitter.com/hdNgzFlQER
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) April 24, 2020
The fans will demand more from the club and transparency will have to be at the forefront of the agenda. Benfica should not be exposed to the nature of such scandals once again and ensuring that would be the right step forward.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO THE FUTURE OF FOOTBALL
Mr Viera had a strong relationship with foreign countries which he used to launder money. His outside investments and his strength of internal relationships helped him abuse the position he was given. Vested in personal interests above the interest of the club, Vieira has proven to be another example of how excessive power can be a huge problem at football clubs around the world.
Viera is not the first one in Portugal and he isn’t going to be the last either. Florentino Perez’s is also another scandal worth probing into. The recent situation in Barcelona and the financial crisis at many leagues in Europe just adds to the state of the game.
Transparency is key. If fans, media, and clubs work together transparently, much of the chaos seen now could have potentially been avoided. It is high time that a consensus is reached between all the involved parties of a club, with transparency as the core of the agreement.