A High Court registrar has been told of “concerns” that cash from money laundering might have found its way to Blackpool FC.
The issue was raised in a preliminary hearing in a bitter legal battle between the club’s owners, the Oyston family, and its president Valeri Belokon, a Latvian millionaire.
Lawyers for the Oystons said it had come to light that Latvia’s financial regulator, the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK), recently imposed a very heavy fine of over one million euros (£780,000) on Baltic International Bank (BIB), which is owned by Mr Belokon.
The fine was imposed for “repeated violations” of money laundering rules and “transactions that subjected the bank to a significant money laundering risk,” said Eric Shannon, representing club owner Owen Oyston and son Karl, the chairman, and their company Segesta Limited.
Mr Belokon’s company VB Football Assets is pursuing a claim for “unfair prejudice” against the Oystons and accusing them of stripping the Seasiders of funds.
Mr Shannon told Registrar Sally Barber in a case management session at the Rolls Building in London that an application might have to be made to amend the Oystons’ defence in the light of the new information in order to allege that funds put into Blackpool FC by Mr Belokon “one way or another were the proceeds of crime, or probably the proceeds of crime”.
Mr Shannon suggested there should be a stay of the legal proceedings for one month “so that the parties can talk behind the scenes in an atmosphere of calm”.
The suggestion was opposed by Fraser Campbell, appearing for Mr Belokon, who 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.”
Mr Campbell said a stay was opposed because of the delay it would cause, adding: “We are very keen they should put up or shut up.
“We do not wish to have another month of having wild allegations thrown about before being brought before the court while the respondents sit on information.”
Mr Shannon said they were not wild allegations but based on what the Latvia financial regulator had found.
Refusing to order a stay, Registrar Barber told Mr Shannon: “If you are going to take this anywhere you should get on and do it.
“There is an element of grand-standing.”