Luís Filipe Vieira: ‘I didn’t rob Benfica’

Ex-Benfica chairman talks holding, takeover bid and meeting John Textor

Luís Filipe Vieira guarantees he didn’t steal any money from Benfica.

In an interview with CMTV, almost a year after the arrest, the former president of Benfica talks about the legal proceedings that removed him from the management of the club.

“I didn’t rob Benfica. I came to Benfica of my own free will, but Benfica stole a lot from my family and professional life. Absolutely sure that I didn’t rob Benfica. I spent 12 years as a crook in the BPN case. I didn’t go to the trial or anywhere else. I hope that in this he is exonerated in life. If I have not committed any act…”, he said.

“It changed my life and that of my family. He was affected, of course. I was at a meeting in the morning and was calling Bruno Maruta when someone interrupted me and said Maruta couldn’t come. Some people gave me things to read and told me I was going to be heard. They searched my office, my bedroom, even the false ceilings. I don’t know what they were looking for. The searches were at my house, at my son’s, everywhere. I left Seixal and returned home. The inspectors had lunch at my house and it was only later that I learned that I was going to be detained. Detained from what? They told me that I had to be arrested. I realized after lunch that I was going to be arrested. There were several people. My wife was shaking. It seems on purpose that someone wants my head, that I am a hunting trophy for many people. I have been visited four times at home. I feel like a hunting trophy for someone,” he adds.

Luís Filipe Vieira describes the detention, and in particular the moment when he saw his son, Tiago, also detained.

“I came back from Seixal. I had lunch and after lunch they told me that I was going to be detained. I put the suitcase inside the cell, they told me that I couldn’t have shoelaces, nor with the suitcase in the cell. I put on a tracksuit I had there and in the hallway they asked me if I wanted to see my son. Far be it from me to think that my son was in detention. I don’t even want to say it. The cell has a glass part and he smiles at me and then it’s not even worth remembering… It’s an image I don’t want to remember anymore. He said to him: James, it’s nothing. Go easy’. I could not sleep. “, he recalls.

The former Benfica director also denied manipulating Novo Banco, adding that there had been ‘harmful management’ by the banking entity.

“You have to be very naive to make such an accusation. Would you ever handle a bank? He was never interested in Imostep. To this day, I never really knew what it was worth. I didn’t want to keep the asset or develop it, I didn’t want anything. At the very least, Novo Banco could say that it had money in reserve because “the money is there”. But he was never interested. The bank has stopped. Stopped what? There was no interlocutor. Didn’t call again. I did not manipulate anyone. It wasn’t until we found out that the bank was going to put NATA2… [NATA 2 crédito mal parado] Mr. António made the purchase offer and the resolution fund was accepted. We didn’t manipulate anyone. It was done in the open. These are the two funds that come to talk to us. Mr. José Antonio made them a proposal. I told José António and he said to me: ‘it’s a big problem for you'”, he defended himself.

“That’s what shocks me, it seems that it was I who had problems with the bank. I had no problem. There would be no fault. I knew what was going to develop. We talk about Luís Filipe Vieira because he is the president of Benfica. I was the only one… I always showed my face, I always showed up at the bank and I was available to collaborate. And I didn’t get forgiveness. I was certainly the only one who was not forgiven, because I was a public figure. In my opinion, there is nefarious management by Novo Banco. I don’t know people’s motivations. I don’t even know who it was. That there is an asset worth more than that money going to NATA2, someone needs an explanation,” he added.

In the last months of Luís Filipe Vieira’s presidency at Benfica, the Securities Market Commission (CMVM) rejected the application for registration of a takeover bid (OPA) of SAD shares embodied as illegal.

In an interview with CMTV, the former Eagles president explained the deal and pointed out that he never told José António dos Santos about the takeover.

“The takeover bid was something very important for Benfica. José António dos Santos was never warned by me. Only three people knew about the OPA in addition to the lawyers: myself, Domingos Soares de Oliveira and Miguel Moreira [ndr: diretor financeiro]. The Public Prosecutor’s Office cannot have anything available or anything. It is impossible to have warned. When I spoke to José António dos Santos of the OPA, he said to me: “I am not selling my shares”. I’m sure I didn’t give José António dos Santos any information. Neither Domingos Soares de Oliveira nor Miguel Oliveira. I guarantee you that he knew nothing,” he began by saying.

“José António dos Santos has done a lot with BES. He is a great businessman because he knows how to anticipate and see things. He knew how Benfica was run. Benfica shares were very cheap. When we thought of the OPA, the first proposal we made was at two prices: 3 and 5 euros. After a few months, the CMVM said it was possible and then it could only be a price. It went down a price, we had to do five. He was not at all worried about how much José António was going to earn. I was worried about Benfica. In the planned operation, we would leave 5% on the stock exchange because of the bond issue, Benfica would keep 45% and the rest for partners like the Bayern Munich model. We were and are well managed. We had to consolidate our work so as not to go back. It was thought that Benfica would earn between 600 and 1 billion euros. The OPA was this. It was played by poorly trained people. Maybe the big culprit was me because I brought Benfica to a level that no one would have ever imagined.

Luís Filipe Vieira has confirmed that he met American businessman John Textor and explained to him what Benfica was.

“José António told me to meet him in a hotel, but I said no. We were in his office. I explained to Textor what Benfica was so that he was not afraid to invest. When he completes the deal, he would present it to the entire Benfica management and professional staff. That’s what I told him and I left afterwards, ”he just said.

Vieira also took the opportunity to clarify the agreements made by his son, Tiago Vieira, with businessman Bruno Macedo, refuting the accusation that he had embezzled money from the Luz club.

“The prosecution has to prove everything they say, for God’s sake. We have nothing to do with it, neither me nor my son. Bruno Macedo is a businessman like any other. How will I inflate a player purchase? It is unthinkable. Would you one day pay two million euros for a player when it costs a million? It is unthinkable. It’s not my fault Bruno Macedo made a deal with my son. My son said it was only available for sale for a certain number. We are talking about houses. My son or I are the dumbest guys on earth like this. If you told me that we had sold an estate worth two million euros for four, I would understand that the prosecution would have doubts. Sold at market price. Am I responsible for how Bruno Macedo was able to pay? My concern is to sell. Sold at market price. I had a big fight with Bruno Macedo about Darwin. He said he would give 500,000 euros in commission, Bruno wanted more. Maybe he even deserved it for the work he did. But since the player was already so expensive, I just wanted to donate 500,000 euros. He is a close friend of my son. It’s only in the heads of people, who want to tell stories, that they invent all that. How is it possible for my child to sell at market price? I could sell to anyone else. Bruno showed up and said ‘it’s fine’, but warned that there would be no product for what he wanted,” he explained.

Finally, the former Benfica president dismissed the idea that he was paying high commissions on deals made during his tenure.

“Everyone knows how famous he was: he traded everything. I have a clear conscience with all business. He still pays eight percent commission on average. The only 15% commission I paid was because of Jiménez. He was finishing his contract, he didn’t want to renew and I agreed with Jorge Mendes €3.5m on loan and €38m on sale to Wolverhampton. I have never inflated commissions. You can call all contractors. It was rare to pay ten percent, just on player sales. I know what I did at Benfica and the members must be very happy because we always had positive results. I never upset anyone at Benfica, I always received everyone. It was rare not to put the manager first when he wanted to buy a player. They accused me of paying the same commission to two businessmen. It’s normal. Benfica did it and I’m gone. He paid the Meité commission to two businessmen. It’s normal for that to happen,” he concluded.

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