Son of Brazil Soccer Legend Pele Laundered Drug Money

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The son of retired Brazilian soccer star Pele has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for the laundering of drug proceeds, becoming the latest criminal to take advantage of his stellar family name to disguise illicit dealings.

Edson Cholbi do Nascimento, or Edinho, was convicted along with four other members of a drug trafficking organization based in Santos — to the south of Sao Paulo — reported The Independent. Edinho is a former professional soccer player and current goalkeeping coach for the Santos team, the same club that kick-started the career of his father, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. Edinho has already served time for drug trafficking in 2005, reported the BBC.

The evidence examined by the court included recordings of Edinho speaking with gang leader Ronaldo Duarte Barsotti, alias “Naldinho,” about bringing “the name” to businesses created for the purposes of laundering the group’s illegal drug proceeds, in an apparent reference to his renowned father, reported A Tribuna.

Naldinho has been a fugitive for five years, according to A Tribuna. His gang allegedly moves drugs in southeastern Brazil and is responsible for supplying cocaine in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where it has ties with the Red Command. The group has been accused of drug trafficking, drug production and illegal arms possession.

InSight Crime Analysis

Latin America’s soccer industry has long had significant links with organized criminal activities in the region, ranging from famous traffickers like Pablo Escobar laundering proceeds through donations to his favorite team, to schemes involving suspicious player transfers and tax evasion.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer and Organized Crime

This is not the first time a famous name in soccer has been caught up in a money laundering scandal. A December 2013 case saw the father of Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi accused of laundering money for Colombian drug traffickers through charity soccer games involving his son, though this has not been proven.

In the present case, it appears that the family name was the important factor in facilitating Edinho’s money laundering activities, with little sign that his own soccer links played a direct role.

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