Ex-Benfica President Joao Vale e Azevedo Extradited To Serve Fraud Prison Sentence

Posted: 16/03/2012 20:46 Updated: 16/03/2012 21:01   PA

Ex Benfica President Extradited
Benfica's Eagle Club Mascot

The former president of football club Benfica can be extradited to Portugal to serve a prison sentence for fraud and document forgery, a judge has ruled.

Joao Antonio De Araujo Vale e Azevedo, who served at Benfica between 1997 and 2000, was convicted in 2002 of embezzling one million US dollars (£630,000) following negotiations over a player's contract.

The family lawyer fought the extradition bid but District Judge Quentin Purdy ruled at Westminster Magistrates' Court that the extradition could go ahead, court officials said.

Vale e Azevedo began his jail sentence in Portugal but was released in February 2004. He was then rearrested just seconds after leaving prison.

After being granted parole without travel restrictions he left Portugal for the last time in May 2008, the same month a European arrest warrant was issued.

Portuguese authorities are seeking to enforce four cases which led to a total prison sentence of 11 years and six months, of which five years and six months remain to be served.

In addition to the embezzlement, Vale e Azevedo was convicted of forging documents in 1999 which altered Benfica's financial accounts.

He was also found guilty of two cases of aggravated fraud worth millions of euro.

Vale e Azevedo has previously told the extradition proceedings that the offences are "alleged" and the charges are "politically motivated" because of his actions as president of Benfica.

"I denounced the corruption in Portuguese football at all levels ... taking this stance against all these sensitive and controversial matters resulted in very substantial hostility from the establishment of the football world," he said.

"There were only two ways to silence me: by killing me or through a smear campaign supported by never-ending criminal cases."

But the judge dismissed his challenge, and said in his ruling that the court could not "ignore the reality" that he has been found guilty in the four cases.

He went on to say there was "no tenable evidence" to support claims of political bias.

"Very grave assertions of revenge to silence an honourable, gallant bastion of footballing virtue standing against widespread corruption are, undeniably, made.

"However, there is no support for any contention advanced, quite the contrary. Several cases involve family friends deceived by their trusted lawyer and do not involve the football club in any way," he said.

Vale e Azevedo has one week to launch an appeal, otherwise he will be extradited to Portugal within 17 days.

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Filed by Lucy Sherriff  |