UEFA removes 2 football officials involved in criminal cases

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A Croatian football official sentenced to prison in a corruption case involving the transfer of Luka Modric has been removed by a commission monitoring the European Championship, UEFA announced on Friday.

Last week, Damir Vrbanovic lost an appeal against his sentence and a three-year sentence in a Croatian Supreme Court ruling.

Vrbanovic, a former executive director of Dinamo Zagreb and the Croatian Football Federation, was reappointed by UEFA to his 2019 National Teams Committee while awaiting an appeal against the sentence the previous year.

UEFA has also removed former Serbian football president Slavisa Kozeka from its committee that controls the 55 European federations.

Kozeka resigned as head of Serbian football on Monday after being linked to a fan group with alleged links to organized crime.

“They are no longer members of the relevant UEFA standing committees,” the European football authority told Vrbanovic and Kozeka on Friday.

In the Croatian case, the verdict was also confirmed for Dinamo Zagreb coach Zoran Mamic, who resigned two days before his team beat Tottenham last week to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

The case involves millions of dollars misappropriated by transfers of Dinamo players abroad, including Modric to Tottenham in 2008 and Dejan Lovren to Lyon in 2010. Both players testified in court in 2018 and were charged with perjury. .

The embezzlement process in Croatia led to convictions a week before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Football Federation Vice President Zdravko Mamic fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina before being sentenced to six years in prison.

Mamic was a close ally of federation president Davor Shuker, the former Dinamo and Real Madrid striker who has been a member of UEFA’s executive committee since 2015.

Despite the turmoil, Modric led a Croatian team with Lovren in defense until the World Cup final, losing 4-2 to France. Modric was voted the best FIFA player in the world in 2018.

Vrbanovic made headlines in the tournament when, as the convicted general manager of Croatia’s football body, he sat in the VIP section of a quarterfinal match against Russia. In the same row were then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and then-Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

FIFA later said there was no restriction on Vrbanovic, as his sentence was not final until it was appealed.

As a former Dynamo CEO, Vrbanovic was a member of the founding board in 2008 of the European Club Association.



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