By Samindra Kunti
November 15 – Belgian authorities, already investigating clubs and the league for match-fixing and money laundering crimes, have now raided the premises of top flight club Mouscron and arrested three people. The focus of the new police probe is Israeli super agent Pini Zahavi who is suspected of having had an illegal role and undue power at the club.
“Searches were carried out at the offices of Mouscron football club, at the homes of the club’s management and at the headquarters of two sports associations,” a statement by federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
The investigation is focusing on Zahavi’s role at the club and suspicions of fraud and forgery.
Federal prosecutors have claimed “foreign companies helped a player’s agent, P.Z., to mask his control of” Mouscron. The initials PZ would refer to Pini Zahavi. The clubs is suspected of filing ‘false documents’ via offshore companies in a bid to remain in the Belgian top flight and ensure its license.
Zahavi played a key role in Neymar’s record-breaking move to Paris Saint Germain last year, but he was not questioned on Wednesday. Agents are not allowed to own football clubs in Belgium. Belgian media reported that Zahavi took control of the club in 2015 via a Malta-based financial fund, before selling the club a year later to a company run by his nephew.
In 2018 Thai businessman Pairoj Piempongsant took the reigns at Mouscron, but Zahavi is believed to still have had a significant presence in the running of the club.
Last month, Belgian police made multiple raids and arrests, including two top referees, Belgian agents and Ivan Leko, the coach of Belgian Club Bruges. The Mouscron case is a separate investigation into suspected fraud and money laundering in the Belgian game.
Mouscron club president Patrick Declerck told Belgian broadcaster RTBF that the club was cooperating with the investigation and that, as president, he bore ultimate responsibility.
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