November 28, 2019 / 4:12 PM / 9 days ago

Danish soccer club suspects foul play in case of alleged fake footballer

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish soccer club Viborg FF admit that they signed a Dutchman claiming to be a professional footballer without ever seeing him play. Now they have filed a criminal complaint alleging fraud by his agents after his lack of skill became apparent.

Bernio Verhagen, 25, arrived at Viborg in October ostensibly from Chilean side Audax Italiano. However, it is not certain that he ever played for that club, or others that he claimed to.

He was pulled from the field after his first training session at Viborg due to the low level of his football skills, the club said in a statement.

“There is a clear picture of a large scam that is likely to involve more people in several countries,” Viborg said.

Danish police confirmed that Viborg had made a criminal complaint alleging fraud, document forgery and identity theft but said no formal charges had been put forward yet.

Making matters worse for Verhagen, he has been arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend, robbery and threatening witnesses, a local prosecutor said.

Verhagen’s lawyer said he denied the charges that he had been detained for. He had no comment on the fraud allegation.

Viborg said that a man claiming to be from the soccer agency Stellar Group had contacted the club in July, saying that Verhagen would be moving to China in January and that he needed somewhere to play in the meantime.

Stellar Group did not reply to a request for comment.

According to football statistics database Transfermarkt, he never played for Audax Italiano and there are no records of him appearing for the previous clubs on his CV, Moldavian side Dinamo-Auto and Cape Town City FC in South Africa.

Dinamo-Auto head coach Igor Dobrovolsky told Reuters that they had never heard of him, while Cape Town City FC owner John Comitis says the player was never under contract at the club.

“He was never registered or has played for Cape Town City. He was going to, but we discovered that something was not right, so we pulled out of giving him an official contract,” Comitis told Reuters.

Reporting by Andreas Mortensen in Copenhagen, Alexander Tanas in Chisinau and Nick Said in Johannesburg; editing by Philip O'Connor and Angus MacSwan

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