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Former Neuchatel Xamax owner Chagaev convicted for fraud as club battles for top flight return

September 28 – The former Russian owner of  Swiss club FC Neuchâtel Xamax, Bulat Chagaev,  has been  handed a suspended jail term  in absentia for attempted fraud and a raft of other charges.

A local cantonal court confirmed a three-year sentence – suspended for two years – that was first handed down in December 2016 before Chagaev appealed.

The Chechen, who was president of the two-time Swiss league champions from May 2011 to January 2012, had been found guilty of criminal mismanagement, embezzlement of tax money, attempted fraud, and falsifying documents. His lawyer had asked for an acquittal or lighter sentence but the Swiss court rejected this.

Chagaev was not present in court and according to Swiss public radio (RTS) is currently living in North Africa. It is unclear whether he will appeal the cantonal decision in Switzerland’s highest court

Chagaev took over Xamax in May 2011 saying he wanted to take them into the Champions League. Among the initially ambitious plans, there was even reportedly talk of a role for former Argentina captain Diego Maradona. Instead, within weeks the team coach, sporting director, staff and several players were dismissed or resigned. Four months later the main supporters’ club was disbanded by the owner. In all four coaches were fired in Chagaev’s first four months in charge.

Xamax was formally declared bankrupt in late January 2012 leaving debts of CHF23 million. Before the bankruptcy, the club was docked eight points over problems in paying players’ wages and social security contributions.

Prior to their downfall, Neuchatel took part in the old UEFA Cup on 10 occasions, twice reaching the quarter-finals but became the first Swiss top-tier club to drop out of the league mid-season since Geneva’s Servette collapsed with debts in 2005.

Having been relegated to a regional league, Xamax has now been rebuilt and after successive promotions finished second in the Swiss second division which it currently leads.

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