The Football Leaks have strengthened the suspicion that controversial agent Jorge Mendes’ company Gestifute holds an enormous influence on Rybolovlev's club AS Monaco, including via ties with its main sponsor Fedcom’s owner.

The Football Leaks coming from the work of a consortium of investigative journalists (the European Investigative Consortium or EIC), have repeatedly shown the considerable influence of Portuguese star agent Jorge Mendes on the European transfer market, and more than that, of his tremendous influence on some specific European clubs. Among the clubs having made an important number of deals with Mr Mendes are the Portuguese SC Braga, the Spanish Valencia CF, the English Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Russian Dynamo Moscow and French football club AS Monaco.

Jorge Mendes is mostly known for being the famed agent of such superstars as Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao or Jose Mourinho. Both he and his Italian superstar agent counterpart Mino Raiola have often been accused of walking the thin line between legal loopholes and outright illegality, and both of them often dismiss these claims as an expression of pure jealousy. They claim their high-grossing megadeals and important fees stimulate their critics’ imaginations.

The Football Leaks are showing elsewise, however. They tend to prove that some of football’s most massive deals from the past few years were negotiated with illegal offsets. Gestifute in particular has been under heavy criticism for establishing a system which favours questionable deals. Mr Mendes’ company has been accused of using some clubs as shells to artificially increase players’ values – essentially the clubs it does most deals with. This accusation is backed by the fact that Gestifute was founded on the business model of Third-Party Ownership, a process by which shares in players could be bought and sold outside other shareholders’ knowledge. In this system, circulating players from one club to another select club would indeed help increase their value, especially if their shares were bought and sold to third-party owners in the process with the backing of Mr Mendes’ reputation and a guarantee to see a profitable trade.

This practice was banned by FIFA in May 2015, but documents have shown AS Monaco seems to have taken part in TPO deals after they were banned. It isn’t clear yet what the club’s books might reveal, but it would certainly prove interesting. AS Monaco did indeed spend dozens of millions on Gestifute players in the past few years – and the Football Leaks investigative consortium says both Mr Mendes and Mr Rybolovlev got considerably richer in the process.

As mentioned earlier in this article, Gestifute is also known for having exerted a strong influence on Dynamo Moscow’s transfers in the past years. The Russian club used to be owned by Alexey Fedorichev via Fedcom – a company which is now AS Monaco’s main sponsor. The ties between Gestifute, Dynamo Moscow and AS Monaco don’t stop there though: AS Monaco’s Vice-President Vadim Vasiliev is reputed to have worked for Mr Fedorichev’s Fedcominvest structure between 1997 and 1999… and Mr Vasiliev hired a friend of Mr Mendes, one Luis Campos, to work for him as a counsellor at AS Monaco until January 2016. Small services amongst friends, it seems.

Mr Mendes is certainly no stranger to accusations of putting financial profit before football, as well as of using his football ties for other business ventures (Mr Mendes is a business associate of SC Braga’s president in Brazil, where they own a joint real estate investment company, for instance). As the EIC has often put it when presenting its conclusions, cases of illegality and suspicions of corruption exist, but what’s most appalling is the greed within today’s football. In the case of AS Monaco however, it seems greed has pushed Jorge Mendes, Dmitry Rybolovlev and Alexey Fedorichev into ignoring any potential conflicts of interests and just going along with their daily business of making themselves and their friends richer, no matter what.

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French Ligue 1 club AS Monaco has been involved in dubious schemes with the notorious Jorge Mendes, the most prominent football agent of our age, it has been revealed.

In late December, French investigative website Mediapart published a report on AS Monaco’s business practices, revealing the club’s President Dmitry Rybolovlev has been involved in a lucrative financial scheme with Jorge Mendes. Both Mr Mendes and Mr Rybolovlev engaged in ‘Third-Party Ownership’ (TPO) business transactions, essentially enabling Mr Mendes to make handsome profits with the transfers of some of the players he represented, and owned shares in. Mr Rybolovlev, according to Mediapart, therefore took part in manipulating the market value of players he himself bought and sold with AS Monaco. This could constitute a textbook case of price manipulation and a case on point illustrating some of football’s unethical financial practices.

Jorge Mendes’ GestiFute company, which provides agent services on the football market, was founded in 1996 and its business model relied heavily on TPOs. It comes as no surprise that GestiFute entered numerous deals with financial holding companies, which aren’t exactly renowned for their transparency. One of these companies, which dealt with players later bought or sold by AS Monaco, was Browsefish Ltd, a Cypriot investment fund. The catch was that Browsefish’s address was with Rigmora Holding Ltd, a holding based in Monaco which served as none other than the Rybolovlev's family office… Furthermore, both companies were registered in Cyprus and administered by the same law firm that administered Dmitry Rybolovlev’s offshore companies. In one case in particular, the books of AS Monaco show the direct implication of both Browsefish and GestiFute: that of Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, who was sold to AS Monaco for four times his original value, whilst being half-owned by Browsefish. Good profit for Mendes, and extra shares in other players for Browsefish. Not exactly crystal-clear dealings. Mediapart also cited other fishy examples.

Neither Mr Mendes nor Mr Rybolovlev are new to financial scandals. The Russian billionaire’s name has been cited in a number of financial misdealings, from shady art transactions to shifting money from one tax haven to another (it’s no wonder Mr Rybolovlev is a Monaco resident, for that matter), and his name appeared in the Panama Papers scandal via some of his business ventures. He is also strongly suspected of having committed more serious crimes, including ordering the assassination of a business associate in 1995 in Russia. Mr Mendes, for his part, was accused by The Guardian in 2014 of breaching FIFA regulations over… third-party ownerships. Other than that, he has made a solid reputation for himself of a man who often sets players’ prices on the market, and has even been accused of forcing transfers onto reluctant clubs or misinformed players. Take Monaco for instance: in 2013, he sold the French club players for a total amount of €130 million, out of the club’s €166 million transfer budget. And he made bountiful profit and plentiful commissions from the sales. Was it all clean and legal? It remains to be seen.

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