Pini Zahavi, one of football’s most famous and influential agents, has been indicted for forgery, use of forgery, fraud and money laundering as part of an investigation into the Belgian club Mouscron.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office confirmed on Friday that Zahavi, who represented Neymar for his world record transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 and also acts for the Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, had been indicted at the end of August and was facing charges. Zahavi “strongly contests” the charges, his lawyers said.
Mouscron are suspected of having provided false documents to obtain their license after complaints from the Belgian Football Association and two clubs concerning their previous ownership. Last year, charges against the club – not individuals – were announced for alleged forgery of documents, use of false documents and fraud. The charges relate to a Belgian police investigation into how Mouscron won a licence to play in the country’s top tier from 2015 to 2018.
Zahavi bought Mouscron in 2015 but sold the club a year later to a company based in Malta, Latimer International Ltd, which listed his nephew Adar Zahavi as its main shareholder. Upon taking control of the club, Adar Zahavi appointed another well-known football agent, Marc Rautenberg, to the board. Six months later, the Swiss agent left Mouscron after the Belgian clubs Oud-Heverlee Leuven, Westerlo and Sint-Truiden lodged a joint complaint suggesting his presence translated to continued agent involvement.
In October 2018, according to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office in Belgium, raids were carried out at “the offices of Mouscron football club, at the homes of the club’s management and two sports associations”. Belgian prosecutors have also alleged that Zahavi had “masked” his continued involvement in Mouscron via a web of foreign companies, a claim he denies.
Zahavi has consistently denied any continued involvement in Mouscron. A statement from his lawyers to RTBF said the 78-year-old “strongly contests the charges against him” and described the widespread reporting of his indictment as “a clear violation of the secrecy of the investigation and the presumption of innocence”.