Swiss football club FC Neuchâtel Xamax, which slipped into near-oblivion in 2012 after being declared bankrupt, left debts totalling CHF20 million ($20.8 million), more than double earlier estimates, officials have concluded.
The former owner, Bulat Chagaev, is to face trial in Neuchâtel in August for mismanagement and attempted fraud.
Four years after being declared bankrupt, kicked out of the Swiss first division and stripped of their football licence, FC Neuchâtel Xamax has made it back in the news for events both on and off the pitch.
On Thursday, Alain Rivaux, a member of the Neuchâtel cantonal government, announced that the club’s bankruptcy on January 26, 2012 had left debts amounting to CHF20 million.
“This is due to the megalomania of the president in place at the time,” Ribaux told reporters, referring to the Chechen former owner Bulat Chagaev.
Ribaux added that the four years it had taken to finalise the liquidation plan was both long and short: “For FC Servette (in Geneva) it took nine years from 2005 to 2014.”
Chagaev, who was detained by authorities in Geneva over suspicions of fraud in January 2012, is due to face trial in Neuchâtel in August alongside former vice president Islam Satujev. They are both accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of tax money. Chagaev also faces charges of attempted fraud and falsifying documents.
At the time of his arrest in 2012, the Chechen denied the charges, arguing that his only aim had been to make the club prosper and not to draw any personal benefit from his ownership of the club.
Chagaev took over the two-time Swiss champion in May 2011. But within weeks the team coach, sporting director, staff and several players had been dismissed or resigned. Four months later the main supporters’ club was dismissed by the owner and financial problems started to emerge in the local press.
Xamax was formally declared bankrupt by a court in canton Neuchâtel in late January 2012. A week earlier the Swiss League revoked the team’s licence because of suspected fraud and failure to prove it could meet its financial obligations. At that time, the debts were estimated to be at least CHF8 million.
Chagaev and Satujev are not expected to appear in person before the Neuchâtel court. Chagaev was reportedly deported from Switzerland in August 2013, while Satujev left the same year. Chagaev now is living in North Africa, according to Swiss public radio, RTS.
In 2012, Xamax was the first Swiss top-tier club to drop out of the league midseason since Geneva’s Servette collapsed with debts in 2005.
Xamax was relegated to a regional league but the club has since restructured and on the field gone from strength to strength. After successive promotions, this season it managed to finish second in the Challenge League, the Swiss second division.
swissinfo.ch with agencies