- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is under criminal investigation in Portugal for suspected tax fraud and money laundering, according to U.S. court documents obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Portuguese tax authorities suspect 7.4 million euros ($10.1 million) that was transferred from Portugal to a bank in Miami between 2003 and 2008, when Scolari was coach of Portugal’s national team, were local income that the Brazilian did not declare.

A U.S. district judge last week granted Portugal’s request for a series of Miami bank accounts to be examined, Florida court documents show. An assistant U.S. attorney was placed in charge of collecting the evidence.

Tax fraud and money laundering together carry a maximum penalty of 17 years in prison in Portugal, and the investigation is an unwelcome distraction for the Brazil coach as his country prepares to host the World Cup.

The 65-year-old Scolari denied any wrongdoing after the court documents were first reported Monday by OffshoreAlert, a Florida-based site specializing in fraud investigations.

“I have correctly filed all my tax returns. In all the countries where I’ve worked, I’ve always declared my income,” Scolari said in a statement sent to the AP in Sao Paulo late Tuesday. “If anything is wrong, it’s not my fault. I hope justice gets to the bottom of the facts.”

Officials at the Portuguese Football Federation, which employed Scolari as national team coach, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

FIFA had no comment on the investigation. FIFA’s code of ethics can be applied to conduct “that damages the integrity and reputation of football and in particular to illegal, immoral and unethical behavior.”

Sanctions for breaching the code range from a warning to a ban from any football-related activity.

Portuguese investigators want to know who were the “real beneficiaries” of numerous payments made into the Miami accounts over the six-year period.

The money went to accounts held by Netherlands-based Flamboyant Sports C.V., London-based Chaterella Investors Limited and Taliston Financial Corp., a British Virgin Islands company, according to prosecutors. Those companies owned, at various times, non-exclusive rights to the use of Scolari’s name, image and voice, they say. Transfers were also made to Miami accounts in the name of Scolari himself and of his son Leonardo.

The investigators suspect Scolari used those companies and bank accounts to hide income from the Portuguese tax authorities.

Portuguese investigators sent their initial request for assistance to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington in late 2012. It was not clear why the request was submitted to a judge only last week. The judge endorsed the request last Thursday.

The Portuguese attorney general’s office acknowledged in an email to the AP that the Department for Criminal Investigation and Prosecution has opened an inquiry into Scolari and said investigators have also asked Britain, the Netherlands and Brazil for help. No further details were available.

In Portugal, ongoing investigations are subject to a judicial secrecy law which forbids the release of details of the case.

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