Financial Irregularities: A Leading FIFA Council Candidate Under Investigation

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A leading candidate for election to the FIFA Council next month is facing allegations of financial irregularities after the offices of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) were placed under investigation by the Government in Bucharest.

FRF President Răzvan Burleanu is one of two officials nominated by UEFA for a place on FIFA’s ruling 37-member Council.

He is due to be unopposed for the position, along with Germany’s Peter Peters, vice-president of the German Football Association, to get a four-year mandate at the top table of football’s world governing body, which comes with a $250,000 (£180,000/€210,000) annual stipend from FIFA.

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But the suitability of Burleanu is set to come under scrutiny after it emerged that Romania’s National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF) had raided the offices of the FRF following allegations of embezzlement and fraud.

It followed orders from Florin Cîţu, then the Minister of Public Finance, shortly before he became Romania’s Prime Minister last December.

The offences are alleged to have happened during Burleanu’s first term of office as President of the FRF between 2014 and 2018.

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They include, according to leading Romanian newspaper ProSport, that Burleanu received €300,000 (£250,000/$350,000) from the European Union to launch a development programme for underprivileged youngsters in Romania but failed to hire 13 people to run the scheme, as it was claimed in the contract.

There had also been complaints that, under Burleanu, the FRF has failed to properly account for money it has received from UEFA and FIFA, along with sponsorship money.

Earlier this month, Romania’s former goalkeeper Florin Prunea, a member of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup in 1994 in the United States, accused Burleanu of failing to pass on grants that the FRF had received to help clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tudor Iacov, the managing director of third tier Romanian League club FC Progresul București, is among those to have filed criminal complaints against the FRF.

He has claimed that the “leadership is illegal” and has regularly failed to follow correct procedures, including that several people not eligible to take part in the 2014 election were allowed to vote for Burleanu.

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Former Barcelona captain Gheorghe Popescu had been the favourite to be elected FRF President in 2014 to succeed Mircea Sandu, who had held the post for 24 years, but on the eve of the vote was arrested on allegations of money laundering and tax evasion, along with seven other Romanian officials.

He was subsequently sentenced by a Bucharest court to three years and one month.

Burleanu, the son of former Romanian League player Gheorghe Burleanu and a graduate of the National School of Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest, was re-elected for a second term as FRF President in 2018.

If he is elected to the FIFA Council at its virtual Congress scheduled for May 21, he will be the first Romanian to serve on it or its predecessor, the Executive Committee, since 1923 and, at the age of only 36, he will become its youngest member.

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