Spanish La Liga received Iranian dark money


Recent revelations have shed light on the financial dealings of Spain’s prominent soccer league, La Liga, particularly its partnership with Iranian telecom company MTN Irancell. The intricacies of this collaboration have come under scrutiny, with evidence pointing to potential financial irregularities involving the use of intermediaries and complex international transactions.

At the heart of the matter is the “Golden Passport” program of the Caribbean nation Dominica, and the involvement of its Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit. The documentation suggests that an intermediary with a Dominica passport facilitated a shell company in Hong Kong to transfer funds from Iran to La Liga, potentially skirting financial regulations.

The 2017 public event in Tehran, where the former Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes was present, marked the onset of La Liga’s partnership with MTN Irancell. Despite reports indicating MTN Irancell’s association with entities linked to Iran’s defense ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), La Liga’s engagement persisted.

While the arrangement seemed financially promising for La Liga, the enduring sanctions on Iran’s banking sector complicated the process of repatriating funds. To circumvent this challenge, leaked documents revealed La Liga’s acceptance of payments from a Hong Kong-based shell company with links to an Iranian intermediary, who held a Dominica passport obtained through the country’s citizenship-by-investment program.

Further scrutiny unearthed the involvement of the same intermediary in facilitating Iranian petrochemical sales, leading to US sanctions against associated companies. The use of Hong Kong-based entities in the money transfer process raised additional concerns.

An investigation, “Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean,” conducted jointly by OCCRP, the Government Accountability Project, and other media partners, has brought these critical details to light, prompting questions about La Liga’s due diligence in the course of these transactions.

In response to inquiries, a legal representative for La Liga maintained the league’s unawareness of any connection between its relationship with MTN Irancell and the actions of entities associated with Dominica passports. The league emphasized its adherence to EU sanctions regulations and stressed the legitimacy of its initial collaboration with MTN Irancell during a period when international economic sanctions on Iran were ostensibly lifted.

While the intricacies of MTN Irancell’s ownership were not entirely transparent, several reports and filings highlighted its ties to the Iran Electronic Development Company, a joint venture involving Iran Electronic Industries and the Mostazafan Foundation. The latter, although ostensibly a charitable organization, was identified by the US Treasury as being involved in activities that benefited Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

As the investigation delved deeper, it revealed the intricate network of financial transactions involving various entities and the employment of questionable methods such as cash deposits, shell companies, and international payments, raising concerns about potential money laundering practices.

Jens Sejer Andersen, International Director at Play the Game, expressed the need for enhanced financial oversight in European football, highlighting the risks associated with unchecked financial operations in the pursuit of profit.

As more details continue to emerge, the case of La Liga’s involvement with MTN Irancell serves as a compelling reminder of the significance of transparent financial practices and regulatory mechanisms within the realm of global sports partnerships.


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