Spanish sports minister challenges ‘Football Leaks’ gag order

Spain's sports minister said on Wednesday that he was "surprised" by a Spanish judge's decision to seek a gag order on 12 European media outlets that alleged massive football fraud, saying it would "have no effect."

Spanish sports minister challenges 'Football Leaks' gag order

The first batch of so-called “Football Leaks” unveiled Friday alleged that personalities like Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho had been involved in a multimillion-euro tax evasion system.

Judge Arturo Zamarriego issued an injunction against all 12 outlets – including Spain's El Mundo and Germany's Der Spiegel – at the demand of Senn Ferrero, a Spanish legal advisory firm that claims some of the information was obtained through a cyber-attack on the company.

“I'm surprised,” Inigo Mendez de Vigo told Spanish radio when asked about the injunction, while acknowledging he had not seen the full document.    

“Above all, I have the feeling that it's not going to have any effect, and there's no point in doing things that won't have any effect.”   

The first leaks unveiled Friday as part of the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) journalists' consortium centred on “a system” allegedly put in place by Jorge Mendes, the agent of Ronaldo and Mourinho.   

They allege for instance that Ronaldo could have “hidden €150 million (from image rights) in tax havens in Switzerland and the British VirginIslands.”

Both Ronaldo and Mourinho maintain they have fully complied with Spanish and British fiscal requirements.

Still, Spanish tax authorities are investigating the allegations where Ronaldo is concerned.

The judge's injunction, seen by AFP, claims that the leaks could constitute an offence against the right to privacy because they were allegedly obtained through the cyber-attack on Senn Ferrero.

But in a story on Monday, French investigative news website Mediapart – also part of the EIC consortium – refuted the cyber-attack allegations, saying the source at the origin of the leaks denied this.

This is an attempt at censorship on the scale of an entire continent,” it wrote.  

In weeks to come, the media organisations, which also include The Sunday Times in Britain, say they will also publish allegations of prostitution and exploitation of minors in football.

EIC says more than 18 million leaked documents have been examined in the expose, including original contracts with secret subsidiary agreements, emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and photos.

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Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

Spain have been thrown out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible South African-born player during the qualifying stages and will be replaced by Romania, World Rugby announced on Thursday.

Spain thrown out of 2023 Rugby World Cup

“Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain,” read the statement.

Portugal — who Spain beat to seal their place in the global showpiece in France next year — replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament taking place in November 2022.

“Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the date of the full written decision of the committee,” read the statement.

According to Spanish media in March, the player under investigation was South African-born prop Gavin van den Berg, who has been playing in Spain since 2018.

He played twice against the Netherlands, in 2020 and 2021, in qualifiers, but he may not seemingly have served the three years of residency needed to become eligible under World Rugby rules.

Spain, Romania and Belgium were all sanctioned in 2018 for having fielded ineligible players, opening the way for Russia to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.