Soccer Star Homes Raided in Money-Laundering InvestigationBy and
Angel di Maria and Javier Pastore investigated after leak
French prosecutors also looking into Paris Saint-Germain club
Two of France’s best-paid soccer players, Argentine attackers Javier Pastore and Angel di Maria, are being investigated on suspicion of money laundering, according to people familiar with the matter.
Their homes were raided early Tuesday after a team from France’s National Financial Prosecutors’ office started their investigation following the publication of their contracts by investigative journalism website Mediapart, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the case is private. Representatives of Pastore and Di Maria didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Paris Saint-Germain said in a statement that it was cooperating with authorities and that “all contractual elements concerning these two players were established in strict accordance with the prevalent laws.”
The raids are the latest into alleged tax fraud in the sport. Authorities across Europe have been targeting players and teams, with the same French unit that is investigating Pastore and Di Maria making arrests last month in a case led by counterparts in the U.K. Details of the players’ contracts appear to reveal they had avoided taxes by using offshore arrangements to receive payments related to their so-called image rights. Also on Tuesday, police in Spain arrested former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell in a separate money-laundering case.
The leaks of player contracts and transfer deals started more than a year ago, providing the biggest glimpse yet into the usually secretive world of soccer’s $5 billion annual trading market. The details were then provided to a group known as European Investigative Collaborations, which includes Mediapart in France and Germany’s Der Spiegel.
Investigators are looking into whether the PSG soccer team, which is backed by the Qatari government, helped the players avoid tax, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. The players and their legal advisers have made contact about paying back any tax they may owe but that is separate to the criminal investigation, the person added.
Pastore was among the first of a batch of high-profile players signed by the Qataris after they took control of PSG in 2011. Di Maria joined from Manchester United, and has also played for Real Madrid.