LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s Prosecutor General’s office is investigating Brazil’s national soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for alleged tax evasion while he coached the Portuguese squad, and has requested help abroad, including in the United States, officials said.
The investigation adds to a list of World Cup host Brazil’s concerns before the tournament kicks off in 12 Brazilian cities next month. Preparations have been plagued by social unrest and delays in delivering sports venues and infrastructure projects.
“We confirm that Luiz Felipe Scolari was named an arguido (suspect) within an investigation being conducted... The inquiry is investigating facts that occurred between 2003 and 2008 and are related to possible breach of tax regulations,” the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.
Scolari, known as Felipao, or Big Phil, earlier denied the allegations after the first media reports and said he paid all the required taxes while he worked in Portugal. He urged the relevant officials “to investigate all the facts.”.
Under Portuguese law the status of “arguido”, or formal suspect, differs from the suspect status in other legal systems as it gives the person certain legal advantages in being questioned and does not per se involve a formal accusation.
The prosecutor’s office said the Portuguese legal authorities had requested cooperation of their counterparts in the Netherlands, Britain, the United States and Brazil.
According to Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo the investigation targets some 7 million euros ($9.6 million) of income allegedly unreported by Scolari and deposited in offshore accounts.
Scolari, who won the World Cup as coach for Brazil in 2002, hopes to repeat the feat this year with his home country as the host. The tournament which kicks off June 12.
Under Scolari, Portugal reached the final of Euro 2004 - which was among the country’s top soccer achievements.
Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan