helsea and the Premier League must not be “contaminated” by “despicably corrupt business practice”, Parliament has been told, amid calls to block one of the bidders for the club.
Speaking in the House of Lords under the protection of parliamentary privilege, Labour former cabinet minister Lord Hain called for the Pagliuca Consortium to be barred from the race to snap up the Blues.
Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca is on the four-strong shortlist vying to buy the top-flight team.
The 67-year-old billionaire is also co-chairman of Bain Capital.
Lord Hain told the House of Lords: “As a Chelsea fan for 57 years, will the Government ensure that no winning bid loads debt on the club like the Glazers did to Manchester United?
The Government does not want to pre-judge any decision Chelsea may make
“Will ministers also bar the Pagliuca Consortium bid headed by the chair of Bain Capital which remains highly entwined with Bain & Company, recently indicted by a South African Judicial Commission for acting ‘unlawfully’ and referred for prosecution.
“Bain cynically and ruthlessly disabled the country’s tax collecting agency by conspiring with the corrupt former president Zuma for an £8 million fee.
“Chelsea and the Premier League must not be contaminated with such despicably corrupt business practice.”
Conservative Lords whip Baroness Penn, replying for the Government, said: “The Government does not want to pre-judge any decision Chelsea may make as it is a decision for them to ensure the best owners for the club are found.
“We would expect all due diligence and assessment of owners to happen before an application for a licence for the sale of the club to be made, which then OFSI (Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation) would consider on its merits.”
Roman Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale on March 2, amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire was subsequently sanctioned by the Government on March 10.
The club must operate under strict Government licence, with Abramovich unable to profit from Chelsea’s sale.
The Government is saying it’s got nothing to do with them in terms of how the bids come out. That is simply not right surely?
Downing Street must approve another new licence to authorise Chelsea’s eventual sale, with the money either frozen or distributed to charitable funds to aid victims of the war in Ukraine.
Pressing the issue at Westminster, Lord Hain said: “The Government has imposed all sorts of restrictions on the club. They can’t sell programmes, they can’t do all sorts of things.
“And now the Government is saying it’s got nothing to do with them in terms of how the bids come out. That is simply not right surely?”
Lady Penn said: “It is correct that the financial sanctions do not change the ownership of frozen assets. We do not control the frozen assets and it is for the club to determine the process of the sale.
“The Government’s role in this is to consider any licence application under the sanctions on its own merits and that is what the Government will do.”
New York merchant bank the Raine Group has set an April 11 deadline for the shortlisted would-be owners to submit their final bids.
Chelsea’s remaining suitors will have the chance to table improved offers to buy the Stamford Bridge club, with commitments required for at least £1 billion of future spending.
Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family, former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton and LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly are the other bidders still in the race.
Representatives of Mr Pagliuca have been contacted for comment.