Ex-PNE player ‘declines’ to return to UK to face police questions over money laundering, court hears

Akpo Sodje playing for Preston in 2012
Akpo Sodje playing for Preston in 2012
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A former Preston North End player ‘declined’ to return to the UK to face questions in a money laundering investigation a court has heard.

Akpo Sodje, 38, who played for the Deepdale club in 2012, is believed to be in Dubai.

His brother Sam, 39, a former Premier League footballer, is facing a trial at the Old Bailey alleging he funnelled £30,000 of dirty money through his bank account.

The court heard the money came first into Akpo’s account and then into Sam’s in a series of payments in November 2013.

The court heard yesterday how companies in Columbia, India and Italy were fooled into handing over money by fraudsters who sent emails posing as the firms’ suppliers.

But the funds were paid into an account in London belonging to Sodje’s younger brother Akpo, 38, who is also a professional footballer, the court heard.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said there is no evidence the brothers were involved in the fraud itself.

But he added: “The prosecution allegation against Sam Sodje is that he was involved, not in the trickery in the beginning itself, but in the onward transfer of the proceeds of the fraud through his own bank account, then out again as cash or bank transfers.

“So, when the money reached its ultimate destination, wherever that may be, minus a fee it would be laundered free of the link to any frauds by which it was obtained.”

Sodje is accused of acquiring two separate payments of criminal cash - £9,000 on November 22 and £21,360 on November 28.

He is said to have “converted” the first payment and “transferred” £21,060 of the second.

The prosecutor told jurors Sodje is a footballer born in Greenwich, south-east London, to parents of Nigerian descent.

“He played for the Nigerian national team and for various clubs in this country,” he added.

When interviewed by police in July 2016, Sodje explained it had been common for his brother Akpo to transfer money into his bank account “to do something with” when he was playing football in China and was in the process of buying a property.

Sodje, from Dartford, in Kent, denies two counts of acquiring criminal property, converting criminal property and transferring criminal property.

Proceeding