Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli are the coach and head of delegation of the Italian soccer team, which won the European Championship this summer and has gone a record 37 games in a row without losing, a streak interrupted this Wednesday night by Spain . They are also former teammates in the legendary Sampdoria that won the Italian League title in the 1990-1991 season. And, also, they are beneficiaries of instrumental companies in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. Mancini kept a plane through his partnership; Vialli used it to manage personal investments.
Using a company located in a tax haven is legal. These companies benefit from the low taxation and secrecy of the jurisdictions where they are registered. The problem is what is done with them and what their use implies: tax havens are estimated to cost world governments between 400 and 800 billion euros in taxes each year, depending on the estimates.
Roberto Mancini, born in Iesi (Ancona, Italy), is an Italian soccer hero. Not surprisingly, he was responsible for the victory of the national team in the European Championship last summer. What was not known until now is that he has controlled a company based in the British Virgin Islands since December 2008. Through it he has maintained and then sold a private Piaggio-brand plane. With the tax amnesty of the Italian Government, he tried to return to Italy his assets in those Caribbean islands.
The story, reconstructed by L’EspressoItalian partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in the pandora papersbegins in April 2008, when Bastian Asset Holdings was established based in the Caribbean. The following month Mancini lost his job as manager of Inter, received a severance payment of eight million euros and remained unemployed until December 2009, when he was hired by Manchester City. Meanwhile, exactly one year before starting with the English team, Mancini had already become the sole shareholder of Bastian, a company located in a tax haven that owns a Piaggio P180 Avanti aircraft bought for seven million dollars (just over six million euros) in November of the same year.
On January 13, 2009, Bastian received a $5.5 million (€4.7 million) loan from SG Equipment Finance Schweiz AG, a Zurich-based finance company. As collateral, this Swiss company pledged both the plane and Bastian’s shares.
In November 2009, however, the situation changed again: Mancini returned to full ownership of the shares and the following month, when he was about to start his new adventure in Manchester, he writes to a financial office in Milan, Fidor -Fiduciaria Orefici, to announce that it “intends to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the recent Italian legislation on the appearance of assets abroad”.
The moment is not accidental. The “fiscal shield” law, promoted by the then minister Giulio Tremonti, was about to expire. The rule facilitated the entry into Italy of all that capital that had been illegally exported abroad. It was necessary to hurry, to take advantage of the benefits offered by this amnesty, which guaranteed non-punishment of tax offenses with the payment of a lump sum equivalent to 5% of the value of the assets held abroad.
We do not know if Mancini used this legal tool, as he announced in his letter. To know his version of the facts, L’Espresso sent an email to Silvia Fortini, wife and trusted lawyer of the national coach. However, the request went unanswered. This lawyer, the documents indicate, dealt with the plane registered in the name of the Caribbean company, sold in October 2011. In the financial statements of that year it is stated that the Piaggio P180 was the only asset of the company, which therefore “will be liquidated”.
Gianluca Vialli has always been linked to Roberto Mancini, his teammate 30 years ago. The name of the former striker who accompanied the Italian team as head of delegation to the European Championship in July appears in the pandora papers linked to the offshore company Crewborne Holdings Limited, established in 1998. Another company, Belvedere Investments Limited acts as nominee (trustee) on behalf of the Gianluca Vialli Family Trust.
The documents indicate that the source of funds for these structures is “personal” estate. Between 2008 and 2013, Vialli’s image rights were transferred to Crewborne Holdings, but the documents do not mention how they were exploited. But there are also several loans, ranging from 319,000 euros in 2009 to 4.1 million euros in 2012. These are interest-free loans payable on demand. Where does this money come from? The creditor is Belvedere Investments, which, as mentioned, acts in trust, on behalf of the Gianluca Vialli Family Trust.
Most of the funds Belvedere lends go to finance the Portuguese company Fish Eagle Trading e Servicos, based in the tax haven of Madeira, while a much smaller stake goes to Claudio Giacopazzi, Vialli’s longtime friend. In his Linkedin profile, Giacopazzi defines himself as “advisor higher” of Fish Eagle, which specializes in the production and distribution of digital materials in the entertainment industry. Giacopazzi himself also adds that he was, from June 2011 to June 2014, the “general manager” of Geniaware srl, a software in Reggio Emilia who developed the video game gentlemen of footballfor which Vialli acted as consultant.
Crewborne’s balance sheets reveal that the BVI company has also invested in the closed-end fund BC European Capital VIII, managed by London-based BC Partners. Precisely BC Partners would have been interested, according to rumors collected in January by the Italian economic newspaper Sole 24 Mineralin buying Inter Milan shares from their owners, the shareholders of the Chinese company Suning, allying with Vialli and Fausto Zanetton, a former Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley banker. Zanetton and the former soccer player founded Tifosy, a crowdfunding platform in London, which allows fans to invest in sports clubs.
L’Espresso contacted Gianluca Vialli to ask him about Crewborne, liquidated in 2017, and his other investments. The former soccer player, through a text message, only replied that he was a British citizen, adding only that his “commercial investments” are “registered and managed” in compliance with tax regulations.