Ukraine FA head accused of money laundering over artificial grass factory | Ukraine
The head of Ukraine’s football association, who served on Fifa’s disciplinary body until 2020, has been accused of fraud and money laundering related to the construction of an artificial grass factory.
Andriy Pavelko was served with papers by Ukraine’s national police on Tuesday, notifying him that he was suspected of abuse of power and conspiracy to misappropriate and launder funds.
When approached by the Guardian, Pavelko, who has been president of the Ukrainian FA (UAF) since 2015, denied any wrongdoing.
The UAF issued a statement in which it said that a previous national anti-corruption agency investigation had cleared Pavelko and other individuals. They accused pro-Russian forces of being behind the current investigation.
The statement said: “The real reason for the criminal pressure on the leadership of the UAF is the attempt by pro-Russian politicians to force the association to stop the fight against the Russian Federation, as well as to block the process of Ukraine’s preparation to participate in the role of organizer in the 2030 World Cup.”
Pavelko, who has been president of the Ukrainian FA since 2015, was photographed with his face covered as he emerged from the public prosecutor’s office in Kyiv on Tuesday.
A leaked police document said Pavelko was suspected of “taking possession of someone else’s property by abuse of his official position as an official, committed on a particularly large scale by prior collusion by a group of persons”.
The papers included the suspicion that Pavelko had made “financial transactions with funds obtained as a result of the commission of a socially dangerous illegal act, which preceded [money laundering]”.
The allegations come after a four-year investigation into claims of overpayments made by the UFA to a company in the United Arab Emirates, known as SDT, that had been working with the national football body to build Ukraine’s first artificial grass factory.
Denys Bugai, a lawyer acting for the UAF, told a local media outlet, Glavkom, that while there had been overpayments to SDT, the money had been reclaimed by the football body.
The cash had not re-emerged on the UAF’s balance sheet, he said, as it had been paid via a third company, Softex, to the former Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, who was a creditor.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Collini, who oversaw refereeing in Ukrainian football between 2012 and 2015.
Bugai said: “The injured party is the UAF, although the association does not have such a status and cannot have it.
“UAF, on the other hand, received from SDT the entire range of services it had ordered, built the first Ukrainian factory for the production of artificial football turf, and at the same time settled an urgent debt issue with one of its ex-creditors . That is the absurdity of the version of the investigators and prosecutors.”
Pavelko served as a member of Fifa’s disciplinary body for two years up to 2020. According to Fifa, he resigned after being ordered to pay a fine for “publicly criticizing a decision” taken by colleagues on the disciplinary committee at the World Cup in Russia.
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