Pool owners in fresh row over police bank raid

Karl Oyston (left) and Valeri Belokon
Karl Oyston (left) and Valeri Belokon
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The owners of Blackpool FC are involved in another public row, this time following a police raid at a Latvian bank owned by club president Valeri Belokon.

The club said it was so concerned about the search, carried out by officers investigating an alleged money laundering racket at the Baltic International Bank, that it had contacted the Football League and was withdrawing cash from an account held there, it said in a statement released on the club website yesterday.

But Kaspars Varpins, a club board member and employee of Mr Belokon, denied the bank is at the centre of any investigation, and said one arrested worker has been told they face no police action. He told The Gazette: “The search of the bank by the economic police on 16 May, 2016, related to an ongoing investigation by the authorities into a third party.

“One bank employee was detained for questioning by the authorities and has subsequently been released without charge. The bank itself is not a subject of any ongoing investigation.”

The raid, which also saw four other locations searched by finance officers and special task group Omega, came after somebody with links to foreign crime gangs conspired, allegedly with law enforcement officials, to carry out ‘unlawful financial operations’ and ‘ruin its reputation’, the bank said.

It has now asked for an ‘independent and unbiased’ probe, months after the bank was fined €1.1 million by the country’s financial regulator for ‘engaging in a series of transactions that subjected the bank to a significant money laundering and reputational risk’.

In a statement, Blackpool Football Club said: “Such is the concern regarding these unfolding events that the club’s board has taken the unprecedented step of informing the UK football authorities of their concerns, and contacting the financial regulatory authorities in Latvia and Kyrgyzstan to seek clarification and further information.

“Blackpool Football Club has initiated the closure of its Baltic international account and the removal of its funds from the Baltic International Bank.”

The club statement comes amid an explosive High Court battle between Belokon and the club’s owners, the Oyston family, which will go back before a judge next year.

Mr Belokon’s company VB Football Assets is pursuing a claim for ‘unfair prejudice’ against the Oystons, and their investment company Segesta Limited, and accusing them of stripping the Seasiders of funds. At a preliminary hearing in April, Eric Shannon, representing club owner Owen Oyston and his son Karl, the chairman, said cash pumped into Pool ‘one way or another were the proceeds of crime, or probably the proceeds of crime’.

Fraser Campbell, appearing for Mr Belokon, said: “They are making wild and extremely serious allegations which we have responded to in a detailed letter setting out precisely the source of the funds involved.”