Belgian football club bought by Malta-registered company raided by police

Belgian police have raided the premises of a top flight football club which was bought by Israeli super agent Pini Zahavi via a Malta-based financial fund in 2015.

Zahavi is suspected of having had an illegal role and the investigation is focusing on suspicions of fraud and forgery. A second part of the investigation is focusing on “suspected money laundering”.

Prosecutors suspect the club, Royal Excel Mouscron, of “being maintained through a multi-million euro financial deal through offshore companies”.

In 2015, Zahavi’s Malta-registered company Gol Football Malta bought the Belgian football club for €8.5 million only to sell the club for €10 to another Maltese company, Latimer International Limited which was owned by the super agent’s nephew.

In a bid to circumvent FIFA rules, which prohibit clubs from being owned or controlled by football agents, the club was sold for €10 to another Malta-registered company owned by Zahavi’s nephew, Adar.

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. The sale of the club to Latimer allowed Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz to obtain a licence for the 2016/17 season.

The change of ownership in February 2016 caused a storm within Belgium’s footballing world, with many questioning why the sale was allowed by footballing authorities.

“The price of four loaves of bread. That’s what the Maltese company Latimer paid to be owner of Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz,” Belgian online newspaper Sport/Voetbalmagazine said.

Following the raid on the club’s premises, three people were arrested but Zahavi – who played a key role in Brazilian superstar Neymar’s record-breaking move to Paris Saint Germain last year – was not among those arrested.

Belgian prosecutors said “foreign companies helped a player’s agent, P.Z., to mask his control of”  Royal Excel Mouscron.

In 2018 Thai businessman Pairoj Piempongsant took the reigns at Mouscron, but a recent report cited the Football Leaks website claimed Zahavi was still “a presence” at the club.

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