Chelsea are reportedly at risk of a points deduction after leaked files emerged suggesting they may have breached strict football rules.
A series of secret payments made during Roman Abramovich's tenure have been exposed in an international investigation named Cyprus Confidential, which has seen 3.6million documents relating to shell companies come to light.
The Guardian report tens of millions of pounds were sent through offshore accounts relating to Abramovich over a decade – raising questions marks over whether they were declared in the club's accounts.
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Some of the payments may have broken UEFA and the Premier League's Financial Fair Play rules, according to four leading sports lawyers, and potential sanctions could be financial or points-based.
The files also suggest Abramovich secretly bankrolled an attempt to get FFP, which was introduced by European football's governing body in 2011 with the Prem following suit two years later, overturned in the courts.
His company Leiston Holdings agreed in February 2014 to pay £100,000 to lawyer Jean-Louis DuPont, who was fighting the case before the European Commission.
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One of alleged beneficiaries of the payments that have been revealed is Eden Hazard's former agent. John Bico-Penaque was believed to be seeking a commission of around £6m after securing his client's €35m (£30.5m) transfer from Lille in 2012.
Several months later, Leiston Holdings agreed to pay €7m to a Dubai-based company called Gulf Value FZE for "advisory services […] related to […] sport research and consultancy" – with the contract signed on the company's behalf by Bico-Penaque.
Another of those who appears to have been on the receiving end of a secret payment is Italian football agent Federico Pastorello, who was an associate of former manager Antonio Conte.
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Another of Abramovich's companies, this time the British Virgin Islands-based Conibair Holdings, look to have agreed to pay Pastorello £10m for a 75% stake in Excellence Investment Fund in July 2017.
The very same day, Chelsea announced Conte had signed a new £9.6m-a-year contract. Paying these sums through other vehicles will have reduced the Blues' spending, therefore potentially skirting regulatory requirements.
The activity may also have breached Prem rules regarding the submission of accurate accounts, as well as the FA's requirement of disclosure of payments to agents.
Chelsea's finances were already being examined by league chiefs after the Todd Boehly-led consortium that brought the club from Abramovich voluntarily reported “incomplete financial information” had been submitted during the Russian's reign.
That admission earned them an £8.6m fine from UEFA, and the FA confirmed to The Guardian that they too are investigating. Reacting to the latest revelations, a Chelsea spokesperson said: “These allegations pre-date the club’s current ownership.
"They are based on documents which the club has not been shown and do not relate to any individual who is presently at the club.
“In accordance with the club’s ownership group’s core principles of full compliance and transparency the club has proactively assisted the applicable regulators with their investigations and will continue to do so.”
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