As many as 10 soccer player trades that Argentine authorities last week cited as improper tax avoidance arrangements were validated by FIFA’s transfer registration system that aims to combat financial irregularities, two people familiar with the situation said.
The trades involving Argentine players were registered through seven Uruguayan clubs including Centro Atletico Fenix for which they never appeared, the Argentine federal tax agency said Aug. 24. Brazilian players including Porto striker Hulk have been traded in the same way through Uruguay’s Club Atletico Rentistas, stock-market filings in Portugal show.
The Argentine trades were processed by governing body FIFA’s Transfer Matching System, which was made compulsory in 2010 to improve regulation of soccer’s $3 billion transfer market, said the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. FIFA Vice-President Jim Boyce said more checks on the player agents involved may be necessary to prevent the so-called “bridge” transfers.
“It does appear to be becoming a little chaotic,” Boyce said in an interview yesterday. “There are obviously problems with some of the agents.”
FIFA’s press office declined to answer e-mailed questions about whether the trades should have been validated by the system, which requires clubs to give details of contracts and bank accounts involved. Centro Atletico Fenix officials declined to comment, referring calls to the Uruguayan soccer federation, which also declined to comment.
The Uruguayan federation contends no regulations were broken in the movement of players through its country, the people said. If that’s the case, FIFA could change its rules to limit a player to moving teams once every six months, according to Raffaele Poli, a researcher at the International Center for Sports Studies in Neuchatel, Switzerland, who co-writes an annual study on transfers.
Since February, FIFA has looked at an arrangement that allowed Hulk, whose real name is Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, and other Brazilian players to move to European teams via Rentistas, a Montevideo-based club for which he never played.
Rentistas got 19 million euros ($24 million) from trading 90 percent of the rights of Hulk to Porto in two tranches in 2008 and 2011, according to stock-market filings by the Portuguese team at the time.
World No. 4 Team
Rentistas President Mario Bursztyn said in a Feb. 8 interview the transfer fee in such a deal is redirected to a company owned by player agent Juan Figer called Lamico. Bursztyn said the club gets a monthly retainer fee from Figer in return. Figer follows all the rules of his profession, his spokesman Jose Aparecida Miguel said.
Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said yesterday FIFA should outlaw such transfers.
“We don’t have the power in Brazil to interfere in the legislation of other countries, but FIFA should prohibit the activity of these ghost clubs,” Rebelo said in an interview in London.
Uruguay’s national team reached the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and is ranked world No. 4 by FIFA. The country’s league clubs tend to be smaller than counterparts in traditional powerhouses Brazil and Argentina.
Some of the transfer fees in trades through Uruguay are diverted to investors via offshore companies, according to the Argentine tax agency said. Investors are allowed to buy stakes in player transfer rights from clubs under FIFA rules, provided they don’t interfere in trading.
Michel Platini, the president of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, said his organization is looking ways to potentially eliminate the practice from the continent because it’s “killing” clubs.
“Today the clubs have no power, no money,” Platini told reporters today. “I sell one player to your company for 10 euros and you sell him for 20 million euros and you have 20 million, not the clubs.”
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