- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Twelve football clubs named in money laundering investigation
Twelve pro football clubs have been named in the ongoing investigations into match fixing, money laundering and tax fraud in Belgium. The federal investigation launched a few years ago has made significant progress on the financial side since sports agent Dejan Veljkovic (pictured) turned state’s evidence.
Shareholders, referees, footballers and trainers are among those suspected of being involved, directly or indirectly, with money laundering in Belgian football clubs. Money laundering in football plays out in a variety of ways, such as over or under-valuing player transfer fees, inflating footballers’ salaries, using the club as a front for money earned elsewhere, fake contracts and the use of tax havens.
Altogether the 12 clubs laundered some €31 million, generally through the use of fake contracts. At least €19 million is directly lining the pockets of players, members of the board and agents.
KV Mechelen star of the show
According to Veljkovic, KV Mechelen is the guiltiest party, good for about one-third of the €30 million. Standard Liège and Anderlecht are also major players in hiding cash. Also part of the investigation are Club Brugge, KRC Genk, Sporting Lokeren, KV Oostende, OH Leuven, KV Kortrijk, AA Gent, Waasland-Beveren and Sint-Truidense VV.
As for match fixing – influencing the outcome of a game through bribes – a 2018 match between KV Mechelen and Waasland-Beveren is at the centre of that investigation. According to Veljkovic, he and two other agents involved staff, investors, referees and players from both clubs to ensure that Mechelen would win the match – which it did. Veljkovic even tried to convince three sports journalists to defend referee calls made during the contest.
It was the investigation into this match that convinced Veljkovic to become an informant. He cut a deal with federal authorities to co-operate in an investigation into the financial fraud in exchange for a lighter sentence for the match fixing. Despite being a key figure in both the match fixing and the money laundering, he will probably see no jail time.
Photo ©Virginie Lefour/BELGA