DIRTY money is pouring in and out of world football through Scottish and English “tax haven” firms, campaigners have warned.

There are growing fears that shell companies registered in the UK - ghost businesses with opaque ownership - are being used to make invisible side payments on global player transfers.

Football experts have already “red flagged” moves for two internationalists - France’s Florent Sinama Pongolle and Russia’s Konstantin Rausch - which involved payments to opaquely owned firms registered in Edinburgh and London respectively.

British shell firms - marketed off-the-peg across the former Soviet Union and beyond as vehicles for secrecy and tax avoidance - have been embroiled in numerous major fraud, corruption and money-laundering scandals in recent years.

The UK Government this weekend ends a consultation on how to reform the most notoriously abused British corporate entity, the Scottish limited partnership or SLP.

Russian investigative journalists have revealed secret payments to an SLP when Mr Pongolle, a former Liverpool striker, was transferred from Sporting Lisbon to FK Rostov in 2012.

More recently Moscow’s Dinamo has dismissed its general director after discovering payments made to an English limited liability partnership or LLP when it signed Mr Rausch, a wing back, from Germany’s Koeln earlier this year.

HeraldScotland:

Konstantin Rausch

SNP MP and Motherwell fan Alison Thewliss has been leading attempts to in the House of Commons to convince the Conservatives to take a tougher line on SLPs and UK corporate governance.

She said: “It seems there are no limits to the areas where dirty money, laundered through Scottish Limited Partnerships, will go.

“It’s particularly frustrating to see this money seeping into football and the purchase of players - we all want to see our team win, but this shouldn’t come at any cost.

“The UK Government’s consultation on SLPs closes next week - they must use this opportunity to clamp down on dubious shell firms and protect the reputation of the beautiful game.”

HeraldScotland: Alison Thewliss

Alison Thewliss

Former Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish - a former professional footballer for Leeds United - has long been concerned about what he called “backroom financial dealings” in his sport.

Mr McLeish said: “To retain the trust and respect of supporters we must have probity and scrutiny. This extends to so-called shell companies

“The UK Government must clamp down on these structures. Football is global and so is finance. We have to be aware of what is happening in our sport: we need a clean game based on clean money.”

HeraldScotland: Former First Minister Henry McLeish: I’m ready to back Scottish independence following Brexit vote

Henry McLeish

Dynamo’s chairman Vladimir Strzhalkovsky discovered a payment of 1.25m euros to an LLP called Golden Toys, according to recent news media reports in both Germany and Russia. Mr Strzhalkovsky, a former KGB officer and tycoon close to Putin whose son bought a stately home in Scotland this year, is understood to have reported the matter to the authorities. There is no suggestion that Mr Rausch, who missed the World Cup through injury, was involved.

Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta uncovered a payment of 650,000 euros from Rostov to an SLP called Trademarket Networks as part of Mr Pongolle’s transfer. The paper cites bank records showing the money was passed on to a now closed English LLP called Drensler. From there, it alleges, cash ended up in the account of a club official.

Trademarket Networks, now dissolved was based at 78 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh, which hosts 3000 or so other “. shells”. The SLP was one of those used as part of the $1 billion robbery of three Moldovan banks. Densler also featured in the same case.

There is no suggestion Mr Pongolle, who went on to play for Dundee United, had any knowledge of any side payments.

HeraldScotland:

Montgomery Street