Spanish authorities have charged the bosses of the talent agency that oversaw the transfers of numerous players from former Yugoslavia to top Spanish and other clubs with money laundering and other crimes.
By Milica Stojanovic*
Media reports say the manager of Serbian Real Madrid football player Luka Jovic, and his associates, have been charged with money laundering and offences against the public purse in Spain.
Abdilgafar Fali Ramadani, the German-born Macedonian manager of Jovic, oversaw his transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt to Real Madrid for 60 million euros in 2019.
Spanish magazine As said Ramadani is a director of Lian Sports, an agency he founded with Nikola Damnjanac, a football manager and former player for top Serbian club Partizan.
The Lian Sports website says the agency has “concentrated its activities in the Balkan countries, acquiring highly skilled talents”.
“The company has then expanded its sector on to the worldwide market with football players, clubs and all other leading participants in the football market on a global platform,” the website adds.
As said Ramadani had focused on acquiring Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin talent, and that in recent years he was closely linked with moves to Fiorentina.
The agency has a secretive image, AS wrote. “They are keen to remain out of the spotlight and always in the shadow,” it wrote in April 2019, ahead of Jovic’s transfer to Real Madrid.
But now Spanish investigators want to see the documentation on various signings at 11 Spanish clubs, mostly concerning players from Serbia and other former Yugoslav countries.
They want to see the documentation at Real Madrid on Jovic’s contract; at Atlético de Madrid concerning Stefan Savic (from Montenegro) and Nikola Kalinic (from Croatia); at Sevilla on the contract for Stefan Jovetic (Montenegro); at Almería, on Ante Coric (Croatia); at Sporting de Gijón, on Stefan Scepovic (Serbia); at Real Sociedad, on Haris Sefereovic (Bosnia); at Celta, on Nemanja Radoja (Serbia), at Mallorca, on Sasa Zdjelar (Serbia); at Levante, on Armando Sadiku (Albania) and others.
Besides Jovic, Lian Sport reportedly represents 17 other Serbian players, seven from Bosnia, 11 from Croatia, two from Montenegro, one Macedonian and one from Kosovo.
A Spanish law enforcement press release about the investigation said the probe was “focused on the transfers of players carried out by a well-known representation agency in which a Cypriot club was used to make fictional signings”.
“In 2017, the Civil Guard learned that two agents of football players, linked to one of the representation agencies of players with the highest turnover in Europe, had acquired luxurious homes in the municipality of Calviá on the island of Mallorca, using a complicated corporate framework to hide their true ownership”, it recalled.
After monitoring the origin of the money at an international level, the same press release said: “It was possible to discover how these agents were part of a criminal organisation that was able to control various football clubs in countries such as Serbia, Cyprus or Belgium, carrying out fictional signings.”
This became known through the documents disclosed by various social media and commonly referred to as Football Leaks.
“In the period in which this research focuses, the two agents of soccer players would have introduced in our country [Spain] an amount greater than 10 million euros to acquire their homes, yachts and maintain their high standard of living”, the press release added.
The investigation was initiated by the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Corruption and Organised Crime and conducted by the Central Operating Unit of the Civil Guard and the Spanish tax agency.
Europol was also involved. “Given the scope of the operation, the collaboration of Europol was requested, which has supported analytical and operational research, as well as facilitating international cooperation among all the institutions involved,” the press release explained.