Portuguese police swoop on 22 clubs with suspected Russian crime links

May 4 – Portuguese police have carried out searches at several clubs, including Lisbon rivals Benfica and Sporting, as part of ‘Operation Matryoshka Dolls’, an investigation into suspected money laundering with possible links to Russian crime.

“The searches were carried out because of suspected practices of tax fraud, criminal association, money laundering, corruption and forgery of documents,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Twenty-two teams of detectives are reported to have searched club offices and stadiums in Lisbon, Braga and Leiria, as well as private homes, companies and lawyer’s offices across the country.

One police source told Reuters that third-tier side Uniao de Leiria, owned by Russian businessman Aleksandr Tolstikov, was at the centre of the investigation. “Other clubs are not under suspicion, but have been searched because they possess some documents that will help the investigation of existing evidence of capital transfers, presumably from Russia and related to criminal activities, for money-laundering in Portugal,” the source said.

Portuguese media reported that contracts involving Russian players were used to launder money.

Tolstikov bought Uniao de Leiria, once coached by Jose Mourinho, in 2014 and last year it had as many as seven young Russian players on the books.

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