Football: Monaco deny Football Leaks claims of offshore set-up to bypass Financial Fair Play

PARIS (AFP) – Monaco have denied claims that they tried to bypass Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by agreeing to enter a partnership to generate revenues from an offshore firm registered in Hong Kong.

Documents released on Monday (Nov 5) by French investigative website Mediapart, part of the Football Leaks investigation, also indicated that European football’s governing body was prepared to overlook the deal in 2014 to avoid Monaco being harshly punished.

Monaco said in a statement: “The club firmly denies having bypassed Financial Fair Play through a contract with a marketing agency, contrary to false claims published by French and European media.”

Monaco qualified for the Champions League in 2014 after finishing second in Ligue 1, and were looking for new revenue streams that would enable them to comply with FFP.

Uefa rules say clubs cannot spend more than they earn in any given season and deficits must fall within a €30 million (S$47 million) limit over three seasons.

Finding income from elsewhere is all the more important for Monaco given their modest attendances, and Mediapart cited documents claiming the club signed a partnership agreement with AIM Digital Imaging.

The “offshore company registered in Hong Kong” was reputedly tasked with guaranteeing “€140 million for AS Monaco over 10 years” if the club itself was unable to generate such revenue.

Monaco admitted that it had sought a deal with AIM but said the figures involved were less substantial.

“AS Monaco wishes to point out that this contract included marketing resources, sponsoring but also all revenue related to the Champions League,” they said.

“The agency had to find €30 million in additional resources.”

They added: “But this contract (which proved to be too ambitious and unachievable) has never been executed and as such never entered the club’s accounts… It has therefore at no time been used in the context of Financial Fair Play.”

Football Leaks added that in October 2014 Monaco also reached an agreement with City Concept Ventures, “a dummy company registered in the British Virgin Islands” that would invest €140 million a year in AIM Digital Imaging.

Mediapart claims that City Concept Ventures was in fact a “sock puppet” of Monaco’s Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, which would allow him to directly inject money into the club without breaching FFP rules.

It is also claimed that the principality side undertook “an intense lobbying campaign” with Andrea Traverso, in charge of FFP at Uefa, including over dinner at a plush Monte Carlo restaurant.

Uefa did open an investigation into Monaco’s finances and handed the club a €3 million fine in May 2015.

However, according to the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium behind Football Leaks, Uefa’s Investigatory Chamber “chose to close its eyes” to the contract with AIM with “a particularly clement amicable agreement”.

In the end, it is claimed that Monaco abandoned the planned offshore set-up due to an alleged disagreement between Rybolovlev and AIM boss Bernard de Roos.

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