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Rapid Bucharest ordered to pay huge tax debt

BUCHAREST, March 15 (Reuters) - Rapid Bucharest have been told to pay £250,000 in taxes after failing to register £900,000 worth of striker Florin Bratu's move to Galatasaray in the club's accounts.

The demand is the latest twist to Bratu's 2003 transfer, worth £950,000 to Rapid and a further £600,000 to former Romania captain Gheorghe Popescu as an agent.

'Rapid only registered £60,000 of the £950,000 fee for Bratu in documents for the 2003 fiscal year,' tax chief Sebastian Bodu told reporters on Wednesday.

'Rapid must now pay £250,000 as fiscal taxes debt,' added the head of the National Fiscal Administration Agency (ANAF).

Rapid Bucharest's owner George Copos, who is also Romania's deputy prime minister, has denied his club's liability - arguing that it is a non-profit organisation and therefore does not have to pay taxes on such transactions.

But Bodu said: 'Bratu's transfer was an economic move with a financial profit for Rapid so it must pay taxes to the state budget.'

The affair surfaced last month when Romania's football federation (FRF) launched an investigation in the wake of local media reports that £1.2million of the fee was unaccounted for.

Popescu, who has made a late tax payment of £250,000 on his fee, was subsequently fined £25,000 by the FRF and told by ANAF he could yet be investigated for tax evasion. He stopped being an agent last October.

Another agent, Ioan Becali, was also fined £25,000 and had his agent's licence revoked after financial illegalities emerged in Bratu's move to the Turkish club.

ANAF are also investigating former Chelsea's striker Adrian Mutu's transfer from Dinamo Bucharest to Inter Milan in 1999.

Dinamo said the fee for Mutu, who now plays in Italy for Juventus, was £1.3million while Inter said it was £4million.

Last month, a FRF official said their enquiry aimed to discover 'whether there is a system in Romanian football to produce so-called black money via international transfers.'

Bodu said: 'ANAF will continue to search into similar cases.'

Local media have been awash with reports of around £18million evaporating from club accounts after the transfer of more than 40 players abroad in the past 16 years.