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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Benfica face financial uncertainty
Benfica fans
Benfica fans may not have much to cheer about soon
Portugese giants Benfica could have their assets frozen as investigations continue into alleged embezzlement.

A Portuguese judge made the order on Monday but the club has appealed against the ruling.

"The order is not yet in effect and we have to wait to see what happens in court today (Tuesday)," club spokesman Joao Malheiro said.

The court order was made as part of an investigation into alleged embezzlement involving former club president Joao Vale e Azevedo.

President jailed

New President, Manuel Vilarinho, has warned that the move could "paralyze" the club, whose past glories include back-to-back European Cup victories in 1961 and '62.

Vale e Azevedo is in jail while prosecutors investigate allegations that he embezzled at least $1m (680,000) from the club and laundered cash through offshore banks.

The 45-year-old lawyer, had been under house arrest in his country home since February.

But prosecutors, who feared he would flee the country or tamper with evidence, obtained his imprisonment last month.

Vale e Azevedo always maintained his innocence. He could face a sentence of up to 12 years if tried and found guilty.

New yacht

Prosecutors are investigating 14 counts of embezzlement.

These include include allegations that Vale e Azevedo kept $1m from the transfer of Russian goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov from Benfica to Portuguese club Alverca.

It has been reported that part of the allegedly embezzled money was used to pay for Vale e Azevedo's yacht, Lucky Me.

During Vale e Azevedo's three year presidency the Lisbon club ran up huge debts and at times was unable to pay taxes or players' salaries.

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