Former Romanian football club owners, managers, sentenced to jail without parole for tax evasion, money laundry; decision is final

Several Romanian business people and former footballers involved in transfers of football players have been sentenced to jail, with charges of tax evasion, money laundry and continuous deceit.

The former owner of FC Rapid football club, George Copos, also a hotel owner in Romania, was convicted to three years and eight months in jail, without parole. The sentence is final.

Another former football team owner, Cristian Borcea, former owner of FC Dinamo football club, received a six years and four months jail sentence, also without parole.

The general manager of the FC Steaua football club, Mihai Stoica, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail, also without parole. At the same time, former match maker Ioan Becali got six years and four months in jail, without parole. His brother, also a former match maker, Victor Becali, got four years and eight months in jail.

Former football star Gica Popescu received a sentence of three years and a month in jail, while Gigi Netoiu, former shareholder in Dinamo and Craiova football club was sentenced to three years and four months in jail. Jean Padureanu, the former president of the club Gloria Bistrita, will also serve three years and four months in jail.

They were all involved in schemes which consisted in the transfer of football players for large amounts of money to foreign clubs, out of which only a small portion went to the Romanian clubs, and the majority to these people’s offshore companies, resulting in tax evasion.

All sentences issued by the Bucharest Court of Appeal are final, which means the eight Romanians will have to serve time. Ioan and Victor Becali would thus join their cousin Gigi Becali, who is currently doing time for corruption in a land exchange deal. Gigi Becali is the owner of the Steaua football club.

All the jail sentences were reduced on appeal, compared to the initial court decisions.

The court found that the eight people caused total damage of around USD 1.5 million to the Romanian state, and of around USD 10 million to several football clubs, in a file involving transfers of 12 football players. The transfers, which happened between 1999 and 2005, involved football players from local teams, such as Dinamo Bucureşti, Rapid Bucureşti, Gloria Bistriţa and Oţelul Galaţi, to football teams abroad.

The trial started in 2008, and in 2012, George Copos, Mihai Stoica, Cristi Borcea, Jean Pădureanu, Ioan Becali, Victor Becali, Gheorghe Popescu and Gheorghe Nețoiu were initially acquitted. The prosecutors however appealed the decision, and the court found in their favor, sending the defendants to jail.

The trial started out after an investigation by sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, which was tipped by the statements made some of the eight people, who publicly bragged about the high sums obtained when transferring football players abroad.

The then head of the country’s tax administration ANAF, Sebastian Bodu, happened to read the newspaper and started an investigation into the financial records of the Romanian football clubs. It revealed only a small portion of the money paid by foreign clubs for the football players ended up with the Romanian teams, and the rest, to offshore accounts.

George Copos, the owner of Athenee Palace Hilton and Crowne Plaza hotels in Bucharest, sold the Rapid football club in 2013. Cristi Borcea sold the Dinamo Football Club in 2012.

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