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banner Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Players banned in fake passport scandal
Colombian goalkeeper Farid Mondragon, who played for Metz, is one of three players who have been kicked out of France
"Evasive and in no way believable," said lawyers
Three South American footballers have been banned from entering France for two years after being found guilty of using falsely obtained European passports.

Colombian Farid Mondragon, Chilean Pablo Contreras and Argentinian Emiliano Romay were also fined by the court in Paris.

The prosecutions are the first to result from a probe into the widespread use of fake paperwork which has rocked European football.

Mondragon managed to obtain a Greek passport to secure a move to First Division club Metz.

While Contreras and Romay got their hands on Italian passports to win transfers to Monaco and Nice, respectively.

The passports enabled them to get around European Union rules which limit the number of foreigners clubs can field.

  Hall of shame
Goalkeeper Farid Mondragon. Played for Metz: Fined 30,000
Defender Pablo Contreras. Played for Monaco: Fined 20,000
Emiliano Romay. Played for Nice: Fined 15,000
The players told the court that they had been unaware that their passports were false and insisted their attempts to establish European parentage had nothing to do with football.

The prosecution said their explanations were "evasive, and in no way believable" and that investigations were underway to find the organisers of the passport scam.

Mondragon is the only one of the trio still playing in France and was the only one present at the hearing.

The three players had all previously been investigated by the French Football League (LNF) before civil legal action was taken.

The French passport affair first came to light following the Saint Etienne-Toulouse First Division match last December when Toulouse officials queried the stated nationality of Brazilian striker Alex.

When his Portuguese passport was subsequently found to be fraudulently obtained, a nationwide investigation ensued and other cases were uncovered including the three South Americans.

St Etienne have since been docked seven points by football authorities while Monaco have lost two.

Pablo Contreras in action for Chile at the Sydney Olympics
Contreras: Played for Chile at the Sydney Olympics
Mondragon received no sanction from the LNF at his hearing on 6 February after co-operating with authorities.

But Contreras and Romay both received four-month league bans.

Police are currently investigating the authenticity of passports belonging to all 78 foreign footballers playing in the French First and Second Divisions.

There are also on-going investigations in Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Investigators believe there has been a large scale blackmarket trade in false paperwork allowing overseas players to obtain European passports in order to boost their chances of a lucrative move to the continent.

Football clubs in Europe are only allowed to field three non-EU players.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 |  Arsenal
Wenger lands Edu
30 Jan 01 |  Europe
Passport scandal hits Monaco
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