João Vale e Azevedo was on Tuesday sentenced by a Lisbon court to ten years in prison for undue appropriation of more than €4m from the club, money laundering, abuse of trust and forgery.
The former chairman of Portugal’s biggest football club was on Tuesday sentenced by a Lisbon court to 10 years in prison for undue appropriation of more than €4m from the club, money laundering, abuse of trust and forgery.
The three judges ruled that João Vale e Azevedo, who was elected chairman of Benfica by its members and served in the post from 1997 to 2000, acted illicitly and took advantage of the lack of “control and vigilance” at the club to “illegitimately appropriate funds for his own benefit”. They stressed their view that Vale e Azevedo acted fraudulently and that all the documentary proof of this was presented in the court sessions.
Public prosecutors had pressed for an effective rather than a suspended sentence for the accused, who they said had illegally profited from the transfer of four players to and from Benfica between 1998 and 2000.
Vale e Azevedo, who is currently in a prison in Sintra, serving 11 and a half years as a result of three separate court cases, was not present at the reading of the sentence, thanks to provisions relating to his extradition from the UK.
He was extradited to Portugal in November 2011, after successfully avoiding extradition for several years.
Benfica is by far Portugal’s most widely supported football club, with up to one third of the country’s population harbouring sympathies for it. It claims to have some 160,000 signed-up members.