Monday, January 18, 2021

Football agent denies bribery charges, claims he was “grandstanding” when caught in the act

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A football agent charged with bribery offences following the Daily Telegraph’s “Football for Sale” investigation has denied he would ever pay a ‘bung’ or behave corruptly.

Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Pagliara told a court that he was “showboating” and “grandstanding” when he gave the impression of being open to bribery and it was only to impress people he thought were representatives of a wealthy German sports consortium.

He said his aim was to ultimately persuade the group to buy an English football club and appoint him as its manager or head coach.

Mr Pagliara, who is on trial for two counts of paying and facilitating a bribe, said he never suspected the representatives of the Meiran group were undercover journalists.

The Italian was approached by Telegraph journalists who set up a fake sports company to expose corruption in football in 2016, after he returned to the game as an agent following five year ban over a €250,000 match-fixing scam in Italy when he was general manager of Venezia FC.

Mr Pagliara, 64, from Bury, Greater Manchester,  is accused of facilitating a bribe paid to Tommy Wright, 52, the former Barnsley FC assistant manager.

But he told Southwark Crown Court yesterday that the money had been paid to Mr Wright as part of a consultancy fee for his professional assessment and opinion of players Meiran wanted to sign, and that it was never intended to induce him to act improperly or unlawfully by getting his players to sign with Mr Pagliara as their agent.

At one stage Mr Pagliara laughingly dismissed the suggestion he paid £5,000 to Mr Wright to induce him to arrange a meeting with the owner of Barnsley FC.

He said: “I can arrange a meeting with Juventus, Inter, Roma, Arsenal like that [clicks his fingers], but I have to £5,000 to arrange a meeting with Barnsley?”

Mr Pagliara also stated that he had never paid bungs to managers to get them to sign his players, saying he “hadn’t needed to” because “the players I represented were world class”.

The court heard that when he was questioned by police over the claims Mr Pagliara said: “I must emphasise I had no intention of breaching any lawful requirements. However, in view of Meiran’s persistence I saw no harm in telling them what they wanted to hear. I must admit I was keen to do business with Meriam, but only on a lawful basis.”

Mr Pagliara said he had been keen for Meiran to hire him in order to allow him to achieve what he described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of his career by allowing him to broker their purchase of a club, saying he “desperately” wanted to believe they were a real business consortium.

Earlier this week jurors heard that Mr Pagliara boasted about bribing high profile managers including Sir Alex Ferguson, Steve McClaren, Antonio Conte, Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce during taped meetings with undercover reporters.

But he insists that he was lying “through my teeth” because he was trying to secure a consultancy contract from the fake sports company worth more than £280,000 a year, including expenses.

Nathianiel Rudolph, defending, asked Mr Pagliara: “Was it ever your intention to break any FA of FIFA rules at all?”

The agent replied: “No, not at all. ‘I didn’t believe I did, or that it would ever come up to it.”

Mr Pagliara admitted that he suggested to undercover reporter Claire Newell that Meiran attempt to sell one of the players that he and his partner Price managed at a meeting on August 25, 2016, the court heard.

He said: ‘Their value we had appraised at £70,000, if she was able to get 100 then £30,000 she could keep.”

But he added: ‘She was instigating the extra £30,000, I wasn’t bribing her, she was bribing herself.”

Mr Pagliara yesterday told the jury: “The acting has to stop. I’m fighting for my dignity. I’m fighting for the right to see my grandchildren. This process threatens to take me away from my grandkids. I’ve been telling the truth since I came into this courtroom.”

Fellow football agent Dax Price, 47, from Barnsley, South Yorks, was also charged with two counts of paying and facilitating a bribe following The Telegraph probe.

Tommy Wright, 52, the former Barnsley FC assistant manager, was also charged with two counts of accepting a bribe.

The three defendants deny all charges. The trial continues.

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