Spanish police smash 'fake sheikh' gang

Catalan police probe gang of fraudsters posing as representatives of wealthy Arabs
Getafe players. (Getty Images)
By Reuters
Wed 27 Jun 2012 06:12 PM

Spanish police have unmasked a gang of alleged fraudsters posing as representatives of Arab sheikhs, who promised millions of euros of investment or loans to victims that included Spanish football club Getafe, authorities said on Wednesday.

Six Spaniards and a man from the Dominican Republic have been taken into custody as part of “Operation Flame” and the group are accused of crimes including fraud and embezzlement, police in the Catalan capital Barcelona said in a statement.

The gang allegedly promised Getafe president Angel Torres a cash injection of €10m as long as the La Liga club maintained their top-flight status and were debt-free, the statement said.

In return, the club was required to transfer funds as a guarantee of solvency to an account controlled by the alleged fraudsters, but Torres broke off contact with the group when two cheques they had written bounced.

Police said they had questioned a total of 12 people as part of the investigation and did not rule out uncovering more victims and making more arrests in the coming days.

In April 2011, Torres confirmed the sale of the Spanish top flight club to Dubai's Royal Emirates Group.

He also said he managed to negotiate an increase in the club's annual budget to €65m from the current €45m with the new owners so as to be able to recruit new players.

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