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Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira detained in tax fraud probe

Luis Filipe Vieira, the president of Portugal’s biggest football club Benfica, was detained on Wednesday, public broadcaster RTP said, as part of an investigation into alleged tax fraud and money laundering.

Without naming Vieira, the public prosecutors’ office said in a statement that a sports executive and three others were detained over deals worth more than 100 million euros ($118 million) that may have caused large losses to the state and several companies.

The prosecutors’ office alleged that offences including fraud, money laundering and forgery had been committed since 2014, and said those arrested would appear before a judge on Thursday.

RTP and other local media said Vieira’s business partner Jose Antonio dos Santos was also detained. Antonio dos Santos is the largest individual shareholder of Benfica SAD, a listed company on the Portuguese stock exchange that manages the professional football team.

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Benfica did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment. Earlier on Wednesday, more than 100 inspectors in Lisbon and elsewhere raided homes, lawyers’ offices, the company’s headquarters and a bank.

Newspaper Sol said the investigation was related to loans granted by Portuguese lender Novo Banco to Vieira’s business group as well as to the sale of shares in Benfica SAD.

A parliamentary inquiry into Novo Banco found Vieira’s business group owed the bank around 400 million euros. Resolution Fund of Portugal owns 25% of Novo Banco.

Benfica is Portugal’s most popular club by membership and Vieira was recently re-elected for another fours years at the club’s helm. His detention raises questions about his future as president. Benfica SAD shares dropped 5.52% following the news.

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