Portuguese police smashed a transnational criminal group that consisted mainly of Russian citizens and was engaged in money laundering using Portuguese football clubs. Europol reported on this operation known as Matryoshka on May 4.
According to the European police agency, the investigation lasted about a year, and 70 Portuguese police officers took part in the operation, which had been carried the day before. As a result, three key figures of an organized criminal network were arrested and 22 homes and businesses, including four major football clubs were raided.
Several thousand euros in cash (mostly in denominations of 500 euros) were seized. According to Reuters, the raids were held in Lisbon clubs of Benfica, Sporting and Leiria that acted in the third division of Portuguese Championship. Its president, Russian businessman Alexander Tolstikov was detained.
Europol notes that the criminal group used to find European football clubs who had been in serious financial troubles and to help them by donations or investments. Later, these clubs were bought on assumed private names, which hid "non-transparent networks of holding companies which were owned by one-day firms registered in offshore zones and tax havens.
The group established control over the football teams’ accounts and started money laundering through various actions in the transfer market and deals on broadcasting right deals. Moreover, it didn’t avoid false betting on results of games.