FIFA logged seven transfer payments this year to second-tier Uruguayan soccer clubs for Brazilian players who never appeared for them, as the soccer ruling body studies whether to ban the tax-avoiding arrangements that date back to the 1990s.
FIFA recorded the payments by teams including Brazil’s Fluminense and Zhejiang Greentown of China on its so-called Transfer Matching System, according to data published on the Uruguayan soccer federation website on March 18. The players include strikers Ciro Henrique Alves, 24, and Renato Carlos Martins, 26, the data show.
Such arrangements, which have involved at least $56 million of transfers since 1999 according to Bloomberg News calculations, allow investors in player transfer rights to structure trades more beneficially. The deals comply with FIFA rules, Fernando Sobral, the treasurer of the Uruguayan soccer federation, said by phone, adding it has received no communication from FIFA about ending the practice.
FIFA said in an e-mail it is looking into the so-called “bridge” transfers and declined to comment further. The amount paid for the transfer of the seven Brazilians wasn’t shown by the Uruguayan soccer federation.
Brazilian teams and investors move athlete registrations through Uruguayan clubs to reduce tax on the trades to as little as 5 percent from 20 percent, said Rodrigo Garcia, a lawyer at Laffer Abogados in Madrid who has advised teams on such deals.
Brazil’s sports minister Aldo Rebelo said in August last year that FIFA should end the so-called “ghost” transfers through Uruguayan clubs including Club Atletico Rentistas and Deportivo Maldonado.
Rentistas gets a monthly fee to register the Brazilian players and is not breaking any rules, the Montevideo-based club’s president Mario Bursztyn said in an interview last year. Maldonado officials declined to comment.
Argentine players are also being traded via clubs in Chile for which they never appear, according to Ricardo Echegaray, head of Argentina’s tax agency. Echegaray told a June 14 news conference that team directors have allowed Argentine clubs to become impoverished by the use of the practice.
Cash-strapped teams sometimes sell a portion of a player’s transfer rights to investors to raise money.
“They’ve acted so irregularly and with such impunity for so much time that they haven’t even bothered to tell the players” which organization owns their transfer rights, Echegaray told reporters, according to a recording of the news conference on the agency website.