EMANUEL FANTANEANU / AIPS – Bucharest: In one of the most sensational transfer corruption cases ever exposed in world football, eight major personalities in Romanian football have been handed jail terms of between three to eight years and handed compensation demands of more than €10m.
The mixture of club owners and agents appeared before the Bucharest Court of Appeals charged with fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and criminal conspiracy. All eight, declared not guilty at their original trial, have a right of appeal.
The so-called Transfer Case dated back to October 2008 and focused on the exemplar transfers of 12 players from Dinamo Bucharest, Rapid Bucharest, Gloria Bistrita and Otelul Galati to foreign clubs between 1999 and 2005.
The eight were Rapid owner George Copos, agents Victor and Ioan Becali, former majority shareholder of Dinamo Bucharest Cristian Borcea, former Uni Craiova owner Gigi Netoiu, Gloria Bistrita president Jean Padureanu, former international Gheorghe Popescu and Mihai Stoica, the former manager of Otelul Galati and now general manager of Steaua.
The harshest sentences of eight and seven years in jail respectively were imposed on Ioan and Victor Becali; Borcea, who quit as chief executive of Dinamo Bucharest on health grounds, was sentenced to seven years in prison; businessman Copos, the owner of Rapid, was sentenced to five years and the general manager of Steaua, Mihai (Meme) Stoica, four years.
The only defendants who had their jail sentences, of three years, suspended were Padureanu and Popescu.
Certain other restrictions were imposed on all eight.
Prosecutors on behalf of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate charged Becali, Copos and co of defrauding the state of $1.5m, defrauding the Romanian football federation of $600,000 and costing the four clubs almost $11m.
Cristian Alexandru Dulca: January 1999, from Rapid Bucharest to South Korean Club Pohang Steelers ($120,000 fee declared instead of the real $600,000);
Iulian Arhire: March 1999, Otelul Galati to Pohang Steelers ($200 000 / $600,000);
Cosmin Contra: June 1999, Dinamo to Deportivo Alaves ($600,000 / $1.8m);
Ionel Ganea: July 1999, Gloria Bistriţa to Stuttgart ($600,000 / $2.6m);
Paul Codrea: January 2001, loan from Dinamo Bucharest via Argeş Pitesti to Genoa ($ 20,000 / $2,750,000);
Florin Cernat: February 2001, Dinamo Bucharest to Kiev Dynamo ($500,000 / $1m);
Bogdan Mara: July 2001, Dinamo Bucharest to Deportivo Alaves ($800,000 / $1.3m);
Nicolae Mitea: August 2003, Dinamo to Ajax Amsterdam (zero / $720,000);
Lucian Sanmartean: August 2003, Gloria Bistrita to Panathinaikos ($600,000 / $900,000);
Florin Bratu: September 2003, Rapid Bucharest to Galatasaray ($630,000 / $2,750,000);
Dan Alexa: 2004, Dinamo Bucharest to Guoan Beijing ($320,000 / $730,000); and
Adrian Mihalcea: July 2005, Dinamo Bucharest to Chunnam Dragons ($250,000 / $600,000).
The difference between the fees declared and the real fees was siphoned off into ‘front’ companies and off-shore bank accounts.
It was back on October 2, 2008, that fraud squad prosecutors first brought the eight before a court.
Last April, more than three years later, they were all declared not guilty by the Bucharest Tribunal, prompting the appeal which resulted in the not guilty verdicts being overturned.
Popescu is by far the best known of the defendants. A powerful midfielder he played 115 times for Romania and was a member of the side who reached the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals. His club career included spells with PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, Barcelona and Galatasaray.
After the verdicts and sentencing Popescu said: “This trial has done me a great deal of harm but I still hope will end well. I consider myself totally clean.
“We hope things will get straightened out on appeal. Such a decision is difficult to accept when you know you’re innocent. It is very hard to wipe off everything has happened during the years since the trial began.”
Padureanu said: “The decision does not bear any relation to reality. Everything was checked and done as it should have been and according to the law. I can only say [the accusations] were not true; the decision is wrong. I will talk to my lawyer and see what we can do.”
Steaua owner George Becali, cousin of Victor and Ioan Becali, said he was upset about the verdicts while former Dinamo shareholder Vasile Turcu suggested there were political influences had been brought to bear.
He said: “It appears to be a masquerade. I know some things about this case. They wanted a scapegoat. Industry and the economy are upside-down. This is an electoral year, a few prosecutors are building their image at the expense of those who put their money into Romanian football.”
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