Tax evasion and fraud exposed in Football Leaks

Photo: Simon Harriyott/Flickr

Cristiano Ronaldo is among the footballers who have come under scrutiny following the Football Leaks. Photo: Simon Harriyott/Flickr


By Stine Alvad
Millions of leaked documents have revealed tax evasion and financial fraud involving some of the world’s biggest names in football. More must be done about this type of fraud, says the FIFA president, but main responsibility should lie with unions and federations.

The extent of FIFA’s jurisdiction in relation to the allegations of tax evasion and fraud raised after a huge leak of football related documents called Football Leaks is limited, says FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, in a recent interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel.

"It is naive to believe that FIFA can know everything from Zurich which goes on during every transfer in the world," Infantino said. "So it makes sense to give the responsibility to the unions and federations. They should check the transfers, which take place in their own country."

"When someone hasn't paid their taxes, drives too fast or is drunk behind the wheel, then FIFA is not responsible for that," he added, writes the AFP, summarising the interview, which can be found in full length in German here.

In the interview, Infantino mentions setting up a committee comprised of players, clubs, agents and various authorities, including the European Commission, to reflect on the current procedures and measures concerning transfers and other topics also revealed in the leak.

"I generally believe that the majority of people, and therefore also those involved in the transfer system, are honest," added Infantino.

"In any case, I hope that's the case. That being said, it's not a reason not to try, incessantly, to increase and improve the control mechanisms we have in place. But we are not an authority charged with enforcing the law ... Although we must do more," Infantino said.

Largest leak in history of football
On 2 December 2016, the first stories broke in European newspapers about large tax evasion schemes by the world’s top footballers, coaches and agents. The Football Leaks have been dubbed the largest leak in the history of football and consists of more than 18 million documents leaked to German newspaper Der Spiegel and distributed to twelve European media outlets through the European Investigative Collaboration (EIC).

The leaked documents include contracts, invoices, emails, photos, messages and spreadsheets revealing rule breaking by some the biggest names in international football. The leak has prompted a number of reactions including a Spanish judge who called for the stories to be stopped ahead of publication, writes the EIC, a request condemned by Reporter without Borders, who called it “an attempt to censor on a continental scale.”

Spanish tax authorities have requested to see the documentation relating to 37 of the names listed in the articles based on the Football Leaks. Among the names are Cristiano Ronaldo, who has allegedly been channeling millions to tax havens on the British Virgin Islands through shell companies, writes Der Spiegel.

Other prominent names on the list are Manchester United coach José Mourinho and a number of players including Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and James Rodríguez. All of the above mentioned are managed by the agent Jorge Mendes who has previously been in the spotlight for Third Party Ownership (TPO) constructions.

“The data is extremely relevant and helps shed light on a football industry that operates independently of moral and, often, legal imperatives. It has become a parallel society where money is at least as important as the ball with which the game is played,” it says in a Der Spiegel article about the source who calls himself ‘John’.

The EIC has denied giving other documentation to the authorities than what has already been made public through the articles published in the cooperating news outlets to protect the source behind the Football Leaks, stating that it is up to ‘John’ to decide to whom the documents should be given to.

More information


See a list of articles in various languages about the leak.

Read a summary of week 1 after the first articles broke.

Read a summary of week 2 after the first articles broke.


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