‘Football Leaks’ firm Doyen fined €23,000 by MFSA

The company is behind a criminal complaint it lodged in 2015 against Portuguese whistleblower Rui Pinto

Whistleblower Rui Pinto
Whistleblower Rui Pinto

An international sports company in Malta at the heart of the Football Leaks tax avoidance revelations has been fined €23,000 for a breach of the Financial Institutions Act.

The financial regulator said Doyen Sports Investments, had carried out lending activities without having the necessary licence.

The company may appeal the decision before the Financial Services Tribunal.

The company is famously behind a criminal complaint it lodged in 2015 against Portuguese whistleblower Rui Pinto, who published the secrets of the global soccer industry, and is now facing extradition to Portugal from Hungary.

His lawyers insist that his whistle-blowing activities far outweigh any crimes he might have committed in securing the documents. In Portugal, Pinto, 30, is charged with an extortion attempt in 2015 on a secretive investment fund that had bet millions of dollars in the player transfer market.

The leaks first emerged in 2015, on a website called Football Leaks. A year later Pinto joined with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network to slowly disseminate related news articles.

Over two years, the EIC published over 800 stories on the dirty deals in football, leading to criminal investigations and prosecutions for crimes of money laundering, fraud, and tax evasion. One of the most spectacular is the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, who last year admitted to a Spanish court that he failed to pay taxes on €150 million of advertising revenue he received over many years. The multi-millionaire and five-times Ballon D’Or winner ended up with a fine and suspended prison sentence.

Doyen is now also behind a libel claim filed in Romania against the media website The Black Sea, an EIC member, to force the removal of eight stories that mention the company’s history, business and political connections – namely with the Arif family of Kazakhstan.

“Football Leaks was not only about football. Pinto’s documents helped reveal a shady multi-million dollar shipping deal of the family of Turkey’s president, which inspired EIC network’s sister project, Malta Files,” the Black Sea reports, of the collaboration that included MaltaToday.

“Doyen is the brand term for a sprawling network of companies, many of which are registered in tax havens. The principal owners are the Kazakh-born Arif family, formerly known as Arifov. Refik, Rustem, Vakif and Tevfik are brothers who made their wealth in the filthy privatised metals industry after the collapse of the Soviet Union...

“The Kazakh foundry appears to be the source of the nearly $80 million that funded Doyen’s sports enterprise in management and Third Party Ownership (TPO) – a practice later banned by FIFA. This was the brainchild of Tevfik’s son, Arif Efendi, and Portuguese businessman Nelio Lucas.”

FIFA recently fined Portuguese club Porto $50,000 for allowing Doyen to influence the club’s transfers. FIFA’s disciplinary committee determined that Porto “entered into contracts that enabled the third party to have an influence on the club’s independence and policies in transfer related matters.”

Doyen Sport is currently in a fight in the Brussels courts with FIFA and UEFA over sanctions imposed for their apparent violations of the TPO ban, through dealings with third division Belgian side RFC Seraing. The ban was introduced in 2015 to protect the integrity of football to prevent investing in forced transfers to make a profit. The third-party investment model was most popular with agents, investors and clubs in Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

The allegations made by the Portuguese authorities against Pinto date back to 2015. Using a false name, Pinto had requested money from the managers of Doyen in exchange for not publishing documents about them. “The deal never materialised and Pinto did not collect any money for the documents. Today, he explains that this action was the prank of a stupid boy who wanted to test how much Doyen thought the documents were worth. Nevertheless, this is the source of his legal problems in Portugal,” the Black Sea reports.