FIFA Drops Transfer Probe Into Brazil Striker Hulk’s Agent

Soccer ruling body FIFA said it dropped a disciplinary investigation into player agent Juan Figer’s conduct in transfers, citing a lack of evidence he breached regulations.

Figer oversaw $56 million of trades since 1999 of Brazilian players through Club Atletico Rentistas, a Uruguayan team for which they didn’t play a game, according to Bloomberg News calculations, based on interviews he gave to a 2001 parliamentary inquiry and regulatory filings in Portugal. Among the players was striker Hulk, who moved to Porto from Rentistas for $26 million in 2008.

Zurich-based FIFA, which oversees regulation of international transfers, said in an e-mail there was “insufficient evidence” that Sao Paulo-based Figer breached any rules. It said yesterday that its investigation of Figer only concerned the period after October 2010, when it introduced its so-called Transfer Matching System.

The online system aims to track financial flows in the player transfer market.

FIFA is looking into tax-avoiding transfers through Uruguayan teams, and on March 5 fined four Argentine clubs for routing trades through Montevideo-based Atletica Sud America for non-sporting reasons. It’s common for investors to own the transfer rights of players in South America. They avoid paying capital gains tax if they route income offshore through Uruguay, according to Ariel Reck, a lawyer in Buenos Aires who works on transfer deals.

Tokyo Club

Hulk, whose full name is Givanildo Vieira de Souza, had played for Japan’s Tokyo Verdy until a few weeks before he joined Porto in 2008. Porto acquired him from Uruguay’s Club Atletico Rentistas, according to a regulatory filing by Porto whose shares are traded in Portugal. Hulk now plays for Zenit St. Petersburg.

Figer, a Uruguayan who’s in his late 70s, arranged for his clients to sign for Rentistas and then be loaned to higher-profile clubs, Mario Bursztyn, the president of the Uruguayan club, said in a 2012 interview.

Rentistas received 19 million euros ($26.2 million) from trading 90 percent of the rights of Hulk in two tranches in 2008 and 2011, according to the filing. The transfer fee when one of Figer’s players was traded was redirected to a company he owned called Lamico, according to Bursztyn.

Figer’s spokesman Jose Aparecida Miguel said in an e-mail that the licensed agent follows all the rules of his profession. Figer didn’t respond to a separate request for comment on FIFA dropping the case.

Loan Deals

Rentistas had an average attendance of 415 fans last season, according to transfermarkt.com. It received a monthly retainer fee from Figer for the player registrations, according to Bursztyn.

Deportivo Maldonado, another Uruguayan team whose president is U.K. racehorse owner Malcolm Caine, earned 10.1 million euros since 2011 by trading Brazil’s Alex Sandro to Porto and loaning Paraguay’s Marcelo Estigarribia to Juventus, according to regulatory filings.

In January, it loaned another Brazilian, Willian Jose da Silva, to Real Madrid. There is no record of the three players appearing for Deportivo Maldonado, which last season averaged 208 fans at its homes games, according to transfermarkt.com.

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