On 4 October 2012, the Integrity & Compliance department at FIFA Transfer Management System (TMS) received an important message from Marco Villiger, then FIFA director of legal affairs. “Please, treat this case with priority.” The recipient of the message were chief FIFA investigator Kimberly Morris and her deputy Barry Lysaght. The subject of the investigation: Vladica Lemić.
It all started on 4 September 2012, when Der Bild published Frank Arnesen’s statement that the transfer of the Croatian player Milan Badelj from Dinamo Zagreb to Hamburger SV was completed using the services of the “player’s adviser” Vladica Lemić. A week later the German Football Federation sent a complaint to FIFA, and Marco Villiger and other top officials gave this investigation a priority.
On 20 September 2012, Lysaght described why this investigation was important. “He is a heavy-hitter and has been involved in some very high-profile transfers over the years. So he’s certainly in the top tier of world football agents. He is indeed not on the FIFA Player Agents List as a listed FIFA agent (and so not in TMS). However, his brother Zoran Lemic (who is based in South America and with whom Vlado has been involved in some very big transfers in recent years) is in the system”.
“As you will see from the media reports, Lemic has (a) suffered allegations of financial and other misconduct at PSV Eindhoven; and (b) has longstanding links with Frank Arnesen (current manager of Hamburg, former head of scouting and development at Chelsea where Lemic has overseen several very lucrative deals). So it should be no surprise that Lemic is involved in a deal that concerns Arnesen’s club.”
FIFA immediately started an inquiry and contacted all the agents and clubs involved, demanding from them all information about the case. They also contacted the company reINA, then represented by Dejan Mitrović, but in February 2013 they closed the investigation.
“After an investigation by FIFA TMS into the allegations, it appears that there was no substantial involvement by Vlado Lemic in this transfer,” FIFA concluded. Vladica Lemić and his proxy official agents luckily escaped any sanctions.
But Football Leaks documents obtained by Der Spiegel and shared with Nacional and other partners in European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) reveal how close FIFA was to the disclosure of Lemić involvement in this transfer, but failed to realize this, because they didn’t check the Belgian company register, which is publicly available.
In the inquiry FIFA contacted Dinamo Zagreb, Hamburger SV, Thomas Kroth as agent of engaging club, Dejan Joksimovic as player’s agent, and Belgium company reINA as agent of Dinamo Zagreb, the club releasing Milan Badelj.
Documents reveal that of great interest for FIFA was the Belgian company reINA, represented by Dejan Mitrović. He responded to the FIFA inquiry on 22 November 2012: “There was no involvement or otherwise of Mr. Vladica ‘Vlado’ Lemic in this transfer. Mr. Lemic is a personal friend, we had not a professional relation regarding the above mentioned transfer. In April of 2012 Mr. Lemic told me, in a private conversation, that Football club Hamburger SV “might” be interested in the player Milan Badelj. With that personal information, I went to the club’s officials of Dinamo Zagreb to negotiate a possible exclusive authorization to negotiate about a “possible” transfer of the player Milan Badelj. Mr. Lemic has not taken any actions or any involvement, he just gave me “possible” information in April 2012. I linked together Dinamo and Hamburger SV club officials. This was one of the services upon request of Dinamo Zagreb.”
This statement was enough for FIFA to close an inquiry. But in 2012 reINA was owned 90 percent by Vladica Lemić and his family. Only 10 per cent was owned by Dejan Mitrović. Both were representatives of this company.
FIFA confirmed it conducted an investigation in Milan Badelj transfer and sought information from the parties directly (i.e. the clubs). “Based on the responses provided by the clubs, as there was no evidence of a breach of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, the case was closed. All investigations by FIFA TMS are done by way of inquiry to clubs and member associations as that is where our jurisdiction lies.”
Football Leaks documents reveal that Vladica Lemić was not only involved in the Badelj transfer, but was also among the beneficiaries of the €350,000 agent fee Dinamo Zagreb paid to reINA. Hamburger SV paid much more to agents. The agent of the Hamburg club Pro Profil, represented by Thomas Kroth, received €474,000 in agent fees, and Serbian agent Dejan Joksimovic, who was a player’s agent, received an additional €500,000 in agent’s fees from the club. As the club paid for the player’s agent’s fee, Badelj could have a problem with German tax authorities as this is treated as benefit in kind which should be included in Badelj’s tax return.
Badelj’s transfer fee, paid to Dinamo Zagreb, was €3.5 million, but on top of this Hamburger paid an additional one million in agent fees. The combined value of the Badelj transfer and costs for Hamburger is €4.5 million. But after Dinamo paid 10 percent of the received transfer fee to reINA, all the agents actually received €1.3 million in fees, or 29 percent of the deal.
The involvement of Vladica Lemić in the Badelj transfer does not end with Dinamo Zagreb. The accounting books of Hamburger SV reveal that reINA, owned by Vladica Lemić, signed a consulting agreement with the club on 24 August 2012. Also a month earlier, on 17 July 2012, the Hamburger club signed another consultancy agreement with the Bosnian company Top Sport Consulting, owned by Zoran Lemić. Both agreements were signed a short time before the Badelj transfer, which was executed on 29 August 2012.
reINA received additional payments of €40,000 from Hamburger SV after Badelj’s next transfer to Fiorentina in 2014, what proves that reINA has a third party ownership on economic rights on Badelj signed with Hamburger club.
On questions sent to all parties involved in Badelj transfer only Thomas Kroth and Hamburger SV responded. Kroth said “PRO Profil had no and has no relationship with either relNA and/or Mr. Lemic” and that he was not informed about consultancy agreements HSV signed with reINA and Top Sport Consulting in August 2012. “From my point of view it was not necessary to involve them,” he added. He explained also that fee paid by Hamburg to his company was the usual fee paid in Germany. Hamburger SV said they “generally do not comment contractual content in public. Furthermore, no one of the former responsible persons is under contract by HSV anymore.”
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