Short of cash in 2018 after banks turned down their requests for loans, the Liège football club discretely borrowed €4.6 million from a Luxembourg fund which was, itself, financed by an offshore company registered in Samoa.
This latest instance of financial misconduct was reported by Le Soir, De Tijd, and Knack as part of the ongoing journalistic investigation of tax havens dubbed the 'Pandora Papers'.
The cash injection was provided by Star Football Finance Fund SCSP, a fund created in Luxembourg in July 2016 to lend money to football clubs in need of financial assistance. Liège Standard secured a deal of €4.6 million with an interest rate of 7.25%, meaning that the club had to pay back a total of €5 million.
Bruno Venanzi, current owner of the Standard, confirmed the loan. "We would have preferred to work with normal banks who offered more favourable rates but Belgian banks no longer offer these services," he explained. However, Venanzi completely overlooked the source of the funds that his club borrowed.
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The Pandora Papers show that one of the partners that invested in the Luxembourg fund was Mercury Management Inc. – an offshore company opened in the British Virgin Isles and transferred to Samoa in 2017. Samoa is one of nine tax havens on Europe's black list.
This company holds a bank account in Dubai and is owned by a trust whose beneficiaries are all from a Pakistani family headed by a prominent businessman. Importantly, the Pandora Papers show that various members of this family are "high-risk profiles" that are currently being pursued by Pakistani financial authorities. The Luxembourg fund was unregulated at the time that it financed the Standard.
The Brussels Times