Former Romania international Gheorghe Popescu received a three-year suspended prison sentence on Monday from Romania’s Appeals Court for his part in a corruption scandal that has swept Romanian soccer.
The 45-year-old — who during his stellar career also captained Barcelona — was one of several high profile soccer figures to receive what are the heaviest sentences handed down in the country for corruption in soccer.
Popescu, who was capped 115 times and was a star of the side that reached the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals, was found guilty along with his seven co-defendants of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering.
They were accused of not declaring the whole amount of transfer fees of players from their respective clubs to foreign teams between 1999 and 2005, and had all been acquitted in their first trial in April.
Popescu got off relatively lightly compared with some of his co-accused.
Former Dinamo Bucharest executive president Cristian Borcea was sentenced to seven years in prison, while the majority stakeholder in Rapid Bucharest, George Copos, was sent to prison for five years. Steaua Bucharest director Mihai Stoica was condemned to four years in prison and limited to certain rights for three years.
According to prosecutors, the undeclared parts of the transfer fees were paid into personal bank accounts in the Virgin Islands and the Netherlands at a cost of US$1.5 million to the state, US$10 million to the four clubs involved and US$600,000 to the Romanian Football Federation.
Among the transfers involved in the scandal were those of international trio Nicolae Mitea, transferred from Dinamo Bucharest to Dutch giants Ajax, Cosmin Contra from Dinamo to Spanish outfit Deportivo Alaves SAD and Ionel Ganea from Gloria Bistrita to Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart.
Popescu and his fellow guilty parties can appeal the verdicts and sentences at the Supreme Court.