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European Police Say Russian Mafia Infiltrating Soccer Clubs

Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European soccer clubs.

In a statement issued on May 4, Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said the group identified EU soccer clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros through player transfers, TV rights deals, and betting.

On May 3, Portuguese and European police raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.

Uniao de Leiria is owned by Russian businessman Aleksandr Tolstikov, who is reportedly at the center of the probe.

Tolstikov bought the bankrupt club, which was once coached by Jose Mourinho, in 2014 and last year it had as many as seven young Russian players.

Tolstikov has yet to publically comment on the matter.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters