Carlos Tevez. ABC how the make money.
A week before the transfer window shuts, Carlos Tevez, despite months of apparent unhappiness with his club and the charms of Manchester, remains a Manchester City player. Over time, sympathy has dwindled for his reported complaints about Roberto Mancini's training regime, the club's chief executive Garry Cook and the narrow menu of Mancunian eateries given that Tevez, on a basic salary of £160,000 a week, is the guaranteed highest paid star in Abu Dhabi's football firmament.
Tevez's journey from "Fort Apache", the Buenos Aires slum where he grew up, to his status as one of the world's most celebrated and highest paid footballers, and the part played by his representative, Kia Joorabchian, has been one of the modern game's more intriguing narratives.
Now, previously unpublished documents seen by the Guardian appear to lend a greater understanding than ever before of Tevez, the superstar in his gilded cage. They show how he has been traded five times and loaned out three times by businessmen who "owned" him, including Joorabchian, and have made millions for themselves.
The documents state that Tevez was ultimately owned by a fugitive Georgian oligarch, who later fled to London, and that joint ownership is now claimed by his partner, a Russian billionaire exiled in London and a sworn enemy of Russia's president Vladimir Putin.
At the age of 20, after Tevez joined the Brazilian club Corinthians from Argentina's Boca Juniors, the player's "economic rights" – his registration as a footballer – were, according to the documents, sold to MSI, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, a secretive tax haven. At the same time Joorabchian was leading a fund, also called MSI, based in London, which said it had "a number of investors mainly based in Britain and Russia" and which financed Corinthians themselves.
Court and internal company documents seen by the Guardian assert that the owner and financial backer of MSI, which owned the rights to Tevez, was the Georgian billionaire oligarch Arkadi "Badri" Patarkatsishvili. A former car-industry executive, he emerged as one of the richest oligarchs from the Soviet Union's post-communism collapse, with interests in mining, cars, aerospace and media. He died in 2008, a fugitive in London, hounded by the authorities in Georgia and Russia.
His long-term associate, Boris Berezovsky, another who became a billionaire during the Boris Yeltsin era, lives in London claiming persecution by Putin's government. Following their years of lucrative partnership, Berezovsky is suing Patarkatsishvili's estate and widow, Inna, claiming he was the 50-50 owner of all Patarkatsishvili's business assets – including MSI.
Berezovsky's claim, in the high court here, seeks half of £24m due to MSI after it sold Tevez outright in 2007 to Joorabchian himself, who bought the Tevez rights, via another company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Joorabchian then loaned the Argentinian to Manchester United for two years, for £6m, before selling Tevez to Manchester City, receiving a fee from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's club of £45m, netting a profit of £21m.
Joorabchian declined to discuss with the Guardian the details of Tevez's ownership and his buying, loaning and selling of the player, citing confidentiality agreements. Via a spokesman, though, Joorabchian emphasised that no player can be forced by businessmen to go to any club, and that Tevez has not made any of his moves without wanting to.
The first of those moves was in December 2004 when MSI, its backers always undeclared, suddenly bought Corinthians, the São Paulo club, and immediately spent hugely on players. Tevez was signed from Boca Juniors for a reported $22m, a South American record and sensation; Javier Mascherano joined shortly afterwards for a reported $15m from River Plate.
When both players dramatically signed for West Ham United in August 2006 after starring for Argentina at the World Cup in Germany, it gradually unravelled that they were not registered to West Ham but loaned, and still "owned" by offshore companies based in tax havens. Tevez was owned by MSI and Just Sports Inc, Mascherano by Mystere Services and Global Soccer Agencies.
Through all the disciplinary hearings and court cases which followed, leading to West Ham being fined £5.5m by a Premier League disciplinary panel for failing to disclose the "third-party arrangements" with the league, the ultimate owners of those companies were never identified.
The documents seen by the Guardian state that MSI, registered in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, first bought 35% of Tevez's economic rights on 17 December 2004, the month Corinthians were taken over. On 7 February 2006, Tevez is stated to have signed a further agreement transferring his economic rights to MSI and Just Sports Inc. When he arrived at West Ham with Mascherano six months later, Tevez was owned and loaned by these two companies.
A year later, the Corinthians deal came under investigation for alleged money laundering by the São Paulo state prosecutor's office, and a warrant was issued for the arrests of Joorabchian and Berezovsky, alleging that Berezovsky controlled MSI. Both men denied wrongdoing, and Berezovsky stated he had no involvement with Tevez's "transfer dealings". The arrest warrant was withdrawn.
The internal documents seen by the Guardian state that MSI was managed by a company called LMC, operating in Gibraltar, another British protectorate tax haven which enables the owners of companies to remain hidden.
A document stated to be an agreement between MSI, LMC and Patarkatsishvili, in July 2007, seen by the Guardian, asserts that "MSI is beneficially owned as to 100% by Arkadi Patarkatsishvili".
Patarkatsishvili, like Berezovsky and their one-time protege Roman Abramovich, was one of the handful of men who emerged from Yeltsin's meltdown with huge wealth. Patarkatsishvili worked with Berezovsky from the late 80s and they made their enormous fortunes in car dealerships, then in the string of cut-price privatisations of state assets.
Like Berezovsky, Patarkatsishvili subsequently fell out with the authorities, accused of fraud in Russia in 2001, then clashing with the Georgia president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who accused him of plotting a coup. Saying he feared assassination, Patarkatsishvili fled in December 2007 to London, where Berezovsky has also lived since becoming an opponent of Putin.
After the Premier League discovered in 2007 that Tevez and Mascherano had played for West Ham while owned throughout by offshore companies, the league said the players' next moves had to be outright sales or loans, with no influence wielded by the "third-party owners". That summer the league, deeply disapproving of third-party ownership, banned it, a prohibition which now applies throughout English football.
Mascherano was bought by Liverpool for £17m; Tevez was loaned to Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United for two seasons. The circumstances of that deal have never previously been revealed, but the documents state that before Tevez was loaned to United, MSI sold its economic rights in him to Harlem Springs, another company also registered in the BVI. Sources close to these arrangements say the sole owner of Harlem Springs was subsequently stated to be Joorabchian.
In one of the internal agreements Joorabchian, described as Tevez's agent although he is not a Fifa-licensed agent, is stated to have "advised MSI that in order to successfully complete the transfer [to Manchester United], MSI is required to [sell] the economic rights of the player to … Harlem Springs Corporation."
It is not explained why Joorabchian apparently gave that advice, but MSI did sell Tevez's economic rights to Harlem Springs. The price Joorabchian paid to MSI to buy Tevez was stated to be £24m, with £3m due in July 2007, £3m in July 2008, then £18m to be paid in three instalments – in September 2009, 2010, and 2011.
United are understood, in turn, to have agreed to pay Harlem Springs – Joorabchian's company – £3m in each of the two years Tevez played for the club, and United had an option to buy him permanently for £25.5m at the end of the loan. Tevez helped United win the Premier League in 2008 and 2009 and on that rainy night in Moscow, the 2008 European Cup. Yet Sir Alex Ferguson decided in 2009 he did not want to pay £25.5m for Tevez and amid some acrimony at Old Trafford, Joorabchian negotiated with City.
When Tevez signed the fee Sheikh Mansour's City paid was, according to reliable sources, £45m – then a British record transfer fee. The money was paid to Harlem Springs, which had bought Tevez's economic rights for £24m from MSI – owned, according to the internal documents, by Patarkatsishvili.
The Georgian, considered a billionaire, worked closely with Berezovsky until he died in London in February 2008. He had persistently predicted that he would be assassinated and said he was deploying 120 bodyguards, so police and pathologists did investigate. They came to an early view that his death was due to natural causes, although some close to him still suspect foul play.
Berezovsky then launched a legal action in the high court here against Patarkatsishvili's wife and the administrators of the late Georgian's estate, claiming that hugely valuable assets, many managed by LMC via Gibraltar, were jointly owned by Berezovksy.
MSI is included in the claim; Berezovksy argues that the shares in it were held by nominees on behalf of Berezovksy and Patarkatsishvili. The Russian oligarch claims specifically, in his court action, that MSI is due to be paid by Harlem Springs for the sale of the economic rights in Tevez.
"The claim is that in effect Boris Berezovsky and Badri were business partners in everything and he owns 50% of Badri's estate," a spokesman for Berezovksy said. "MSI is a part of that estate; the claim is that Boris Berezovsky jointly owned the shares in MSI, along with Badri."
Berezovsky explicitly states in his court action that he wanted his name hidden from ownership of his assets after 2006 because he believed he was being pursued by the Russian authorities, having become a public opponent of Putin. Berezovsky claims his shares in joint ventures with Patarkatsishvili, including MSI, were transferred to trusts or nominees so that his identity could be hidden. Patarkatsishvili's family is arguing that in fact in 2006 an "economic divorce" took place, by which Patarkatsishvili bought Berezovsky out.
The case is expected to come to court in October next year. Asked why Berezovsky had said publicly previously that he had had no involvement in MSI or dealings over Tevez, his spokesman said it was open to interpretation. "He answered directly what was put to him."
When Tevez signed for City the club unveiled the player's image on a billboard proclaiming "Welcome to Manchester". Now Tevez, still advised by Joorabchian although he no longer owns the striker's rights, says he wants away from the rainy city with too few restaurants and wishes to be closer to his family in Argentina. Corinthians returned for him this summer and City, weary of the disruption, were prepared to sell, but the deal, agreed at £40m plus £2m in each of the next two years, fell down when City asked Corinthians for a bank guarantee on the first instalment.
Unless a club approach City with a fee approaching the £45m they paid Joorabchian, Tevez will be staying in Manchester. In that sense, he can be considered a prisoner of all the multi-million-pound deals done to trade him.
Over the coming months, Berezovsky, now actively asserting he was an investor in MSI, will continue his fight for a share of the £24m Joorabchian paid MSI. Tevez can be expected to play on, with maximum commitment, as he always has, in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, West Ham, or in the rain and Premier League money-pot of Manchester – whoever has "owned" him.