MP Ben Wallace lifts the lid on money-laundering in UK football

Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace
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A professional football club or clubs are under investigation for alleged money laundering.

Security minister and Member of Parliament for Wyre and Preston North Ben Wallace told MPs the sports industry "is as susceptible as anything else" to being used to hide the source of dirty money.

At the Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday, Labour MP John Mann asked him: "When it comes to money laundering, how many professional football clubs have been deemed as requiring investigation currently?"

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Mr Wallace said: "I know of (a) professional football club or clubs under investigation. I couldn't reveal how many and what they are, for that is an operational matter."

Pressed about the number involved, he replied: "There are live investigations that go on all the time and to expand any more could threaten investigations.

"The sports industry is as susceptible as anything else to dirty money being invested or their organisations being used as a way to launder money."

He told the committee it can take years for this type of investigation to be completed.

Mr Wallace said suspicious activity reports, a way to pass information to law enforcement about potential criminal activity by customers or clients, should be made "by anyone" and not just banks.

He said "not enough" had come from football authorities.

A spokeswoman for the National Crime Agency said: "We do not routinely confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

"We have not charged any professional football clubs with money laundering, and there are none currently in the court process."

It has been acknowledged for some years that football is vulnerable to money laundering.

In 2009, a report by the international Financial Action Task Force suggested that the sport could be targeted because it involves large sums of money crossing international borders, making the origins of the cash harder to trace.

Criminals can also become involved in betting rings linked to the sport.

Earlier this month, authorities in Belgium raided a number of top flight clubs and charged 19 people with offences linked to alleged money laundering and match-fixing.

They included two referees, football agents and Bruges coach Ivan Leko, who is accused of money laundering, an allegation linked to a period before he joined the club that he denies.