Fifa and Uefa accused of being enablers of tax evasion in football by MEPs

Members of a European Parliament inquiry have accused Fifa and Uefa officials of being enablers of a corrupt system that permits players and agents to avoid

Members of a European Parliament inquiry have accused Fifa and Uefa officials of being enablers of a corrupt system that permits players and agents to avoid paying tax, with Barcelonas social media campaign after Lionel Messis conviction for tax fraud described by one MEP as immoral

Members of a European Parliament inquiry have accused Fifa and Uefa officials of being enablers of a corrupt system that permits players and agents to avoid paying tax, with Barcelonas social media campaign after Lionel Messis conviction for tax fraud described by one MEP as immoral.

Part of the European Parliaments committee of inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (Pana), the hearing has been prompted by some of the accusations detailed by the website Football Leaks, which has alleged that various players and managers have hidden tens of millions of euros in tax havens around the world.

The first hearing took place in Brussels on Tuesday with representatives of both the world and European football governing bodies in attendance. They were questioned by a series of MEPs, with a particular focus on Messis conviction for evading more than 4m in tax over his image rights by using shell companies in Belize and Uruguay.

Last July, the Argentina forward and his father Jorge were sentenced to 21 months in prison after being found guilty, with Barcelona subsequently launching a social media campaign with the hashtag #WeAreAllLeoMessi.

Messi was guilty and he was sanctioned, said Belgiums Louis Michel. This campaign is immoral and contradicts the values promoted by Fifa.

The German MEP Jeppe Kofod also questioned Kimberly Morris, who is Fifas head of global transfers and compliance. You are for fair play, he said. Shouldnt you also be for fair taxes?

In response Morris said: Its a matter for national legislation. Our competencies are limited. We do what is in our power to investigate the sports aspects.

(((Ana Gomes, MEP))) (@AnaGomesMEP)

@FIFATMS & EFAA justify no sanctions with many national tax laws.Unacceptable!not just abt sports integrity:enabling #taxfraud & #corruption https://t.co/MD0Kq9wccr

September 26, 2017

The Pana committee chairman, Werner Langer, described the answers as not completely satisfactory, with Michel accusing the Fifa official of displaying a magnificent example of double talk. He said: These people are totally against the values you say you defend.

The panel also heard from Merijn Rengers, a journalist for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, which is one of the publications in the media consortium which published the findings of financial wrongdoing via the Football Leaks website. Rengers said the desire to evade tax was epidemic in the industry, with some of the biggest clubs, agents and players particularly culpable.

Everybody is using tax advisors to evade tax, he said, while also raising concerns over the lack of transparency in third-party ownership. We believe tax evasion is a clear threat to the social values of football and to the regulatory framework and to the integrity of the broader game. Having said that, its up to the regulatory authorities.

But Gregor Reiter of the European Football Agents Association admitted that sanctions have been hard to implement due to different rules being adopted around the continent.

The federation sees the legislation for players agents solely as a framework that member states must adapt, he said. That leads to diverging rules depending on the country, which makes it very difficult to take legal action against bad practices.

The investigation will submit its final report before the end of this year.

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