Mexican soccer teams are being used by drug trafficking groups to launder money and as a means to corrupt local officials, according to a report sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that detailed 20 cases of money laundering in soccer throughout the world. The report, titled Money Laundering Through the Football Sector, was compiled by the Organization’s Financial Action Task Force. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is a Paris-based multi-disciplinary and inter-governmental body whose purpose is to develop and promote national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, according to the group’s web site.
Among the cases highlighted was that of a person from a rural part of Mexico who left for five years but returned with large amounts of money that he used to buy several companies. One of them was a third-division soccer team that was established in one of the larger cities in the area he was from. The new owner moved the team to a much smaller village of about 30,000 people, which indicated that the business was not intended to make money, according to the report. Despite the move, the team salaries remained the same, and the amount of money used to pay for infrastructure was higher than other teams in the same division. The owner was later identified as a leader of a drug trafficking group, according to the report.
In another case in Mexico, a businessman with ties to local government officials bought a profitable professional soccer team and then apparently used it as a way to attract politicians and other government officials so that he could obtain contracts for public works projects.
The report notes that organized crime has infiltrated soccer teams ranging from those at the professional level to those that are of amateur status. The teams are being used for a range of illegal purposes ranging from drug trafficking, human trafficking, corruption and the evasion of taxes, according to the report. The report notes that soccer teams can provide a way for some owners with criminal backgrounds to win legitimacy within society and to make contact with famous and powerful people as they themselves become celebrities.
From the July Justice in Mexico Project’s Monthly News Report:
Financial Action Task Force. “Money laundering through the football sector.” (http://www.fatf-gafi.org/dataoecd/7/41/43216572.pdf) July, 2009.
Gomora, Doris. “OCDE: Narco lava dinero en el futbol.” El Universal. July 2, 2009.
Gonzalez, Roberto. “El futbol, blanco facil para lavar dinero.” La Jornada. July 2, 2009.
Hardach, Sophie. “Soccer ‘perfect’ for money laundering – report.” Reuters. July 1, 2009.