A Neuchâtel court has confirmed the jail term for fraud and other charges handed down to Bulat Chagaev, the former owner of Swiss football club FC Neuchâtel Xamax.
The cantonal court on Tuesday confirmed Chagaev’s three-year prison sentence – suspended for two years – from December 2016. The Chechen, who was president of the former two-time Swiss league champions from May 2011 to January 2012, had been found guilty of criminal mismanagement, embezzlement of tax money, attempted fraud, and falsifying documents.
His lawyer had asked for an acquittal or lighter sentence but the Swiss court rejected his arguments. Although the football club was already in debt when Chagaev took over, the court said, the former owner must have realised that his bad management rapidly made things worse.
The court said Chagaev’s expenses on behalf of the club were unreasonable. It added that it had been impossible to say whether the Chechen had had sufficient financial resources to assume the financial costs of the Swiss football club.
Chagaev was not present in court on Tuesday. According to Swiss public radio (RTS), he is currently living in North Africa. It is unclear whether he will appeal the cantonal decision in Switzerland’s highest court.
Bankruptcy and debts
Chagaev took over Xamax 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 disbanded 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 had revoked their license because of suspected fraud and a failure to prove they could meet financial obligations. The club’s bankruptcy left debts amounting to CHF23 million.
Chagaev then appeared before the Neuchâtel court in August of that year. He was reportedly deported from Switzerland in August 2013.
In 2012 Xamax was the first Swiss top-tier club to drop out of the league mid-season since Geneva’s Servette collapsed with debts in 2005.
Xamax was relegated to a regional league but the club has since restructured and gone from strength to strength on the field. After successive promotions, last season it finished second in the Challenge League, the Swiss second division; this season it is currently in joint top position.