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Racing Santander owner Ahsan Ali Syed under spotlight - Pete Jenson

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18 Mar 2011 14:33:12

Racing Santander owner Ahsan Ali Syed under spotlight - Pete Jenson

THE GAME IN SPAIN So here is the deal. You need a ?100million quick. I can arrange a loan, you just have to pass my credit risk test. Pay me a ?1m fee and I'll load up your account. Only thing is once you've passed my test and paid my fee, I will have disappeared and you won't ever receive the loan. That's the financial scam that Indian entrepreneur and Racing Santander owner Ahsan Ali Syed is accused of performing throughout Australia and Malaysia. Star of the show: Ahsan Ali Syed is paraded in front of the fans at El Sardinero stadium     More from Pete Jenson... Game in Spain: Raul may have snubbed Man United but is there an unlikely trip to Old Trafford ahead?10/03/11 Game in Spain: Mourinho mayhem at Madrid more exciting than title race04/03/11 Game in Spain: Toral gives Barca another reason for revenge24/02/11 Game in Spain: Special One Mourinho offers Real European reminder18/02/11 Game in Spain: New deal couldn't have come at a more poignant time for Pep 11/02/11 Game in Spain: Who is Pedro? He's Barcelona's brilliant Mr Nobody03/02/11 Game in Spain: Same shift, different day for Adebayor at Real Madrid27/01/11 Pete Jenson: Jose's love affair with Real is heading for a nasty break-up21/01/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVENow the fans of the modest La Liga side are wondering just what they have got themselves into with the man who tried and failed to buy Blackburn last year and took control of their club in January. The wait for another Roman Abramovich is a long one and for every Sheikh Mansour, there are a hundred Michael Knightons or - worse - someone who won't just content themselves with a bit of ball juggling in front of admiring fans but go on to asset strip the club, take it into administration and, who knows, if they are really clever, even manage to end up on the list of creditors waiting to be paid by the administrator. Ali Syed, or Mr Ali as he is known, brought his 80 per cent stake in Racing proclaiming that there was room in Spanish football for a third super power and 'why shouldn't it be the little club up on the Cantabria coast?' The man who failed to buy Blackburn was ready to give Real Madrid and Barcelona a run for their money. His personal fortune of around $8billion would help him do so, as would his London School of Economics degree. Whispers that he was not really an LSE graduate at all - and that the only thing he left London with was considerable back rent and unpaid council taxes - were surely wide of the mark. Mr Ali has his name written on the wing of the private jet he uses to fly between Bahrain and Swiss headquarters. How could he not be the real thing? He immediately caused a stir in Spanish football. Not, unfortunately for Racing fans, with his dealings in the transfer market - their only activity in the winter transfer window was the capture of Giovanni dos Santos on loan from Tottenham  - but for his wild goal celebrations in the directors box at the club's Sardinero stadium. Old money turned its nose up at the outpourings of unbridled joy but others said 'what the hell, he's brought the club - why shouldn't he celebrate when the team score?' The president of Cantabria and minority shareholder Miguel Angel Revilla admitted that standing alongside Mr Aliwas an eye-opening experience and he didn't always need a goal to bringhim to his feet. 'He had never been to a match in his life,' said Revilla. 'I am by his side in the directors box and I am dying with laughter. A defender gives the ball back to the keeper and he applauds like a maniac. He doesn't know anything about football.' Apart from his over-exuberance in the stands Mr Ali's worst crime to date in the eyes of his new Cantabrian friends is to not like the local anchovies. 'He is the first person, I've known who won't even try them,' says Revilla. And Spanish staples ham and alcohol are also off the stadium menu. But Mr Ali has promised to invest big in the club including a ?3m investment in a new foundation. It's his record on keeping promises that are now starting to ring the alarm bells. On March 3, the Sydney Morning Herald claimed Mr Ali had conned various Australian businessmen out of $30million with his elaborate loan scam. He is alleged to have promised to make sizeable loans to struggling companies, taken large fees for setting the loans up and then never released the funds. On Tuesday, Spanish sports newspaper Marca published documents showing Mr Ali's company Western Gulf Advisory sanctioning a loan of $155m to construction tycoon Keith Johnson. Another document showed that Johnson had paid sums of $1.25m and $1.2m to WGA for setting the loans up. Johnson claims never to have received the loans and has set a deadline of today for repayment of his fees before he takes legal action. Mountain to climb: Racing Santander are hoping to challenge Real Madrid at the top one day In a statement last weekend, Mr Ali claimed the loan was refused Mr Johnson's company but the documents since published appear to prove it was sanctioned and the fee for its setting up paid for. Another struggling businessman waiting for Mr Ali to come through for him is Terry Serepisos, who owns Australian A League side Wellington Phoenix. He has paid Mr Ali for the setting up of a $110m loan but also claims not to have received the money. He has been given a stay of execution by his creditors having convinced them that Mr Ali's loan will arrive. Malaysian businessman Raziff Razaaly claims to have been stung in 2008 when he paid $425,000 for the setting up of a $100m loan but never received the money despite also handing over a $4m guarantee. Despite the allegations he has not been charged, or found guilty in a court of law. This week Racing's players were paid their February wages but they are still waiting for money owed to them for December and January. Meanwhile supporters wait to see if they really are in the hands of a serial fraudster or just unlucky sugar daddy who is the victim of an elaborate smear campaign. 'Before we signed our deal with him,' says Cantabria president Revilla, 'I was inundated with letters and people called me to tell me there were stories he was a con-man. But we had Deloitte and Credit Suisse carry out checks on him and they confirmed that his company had made 124m euros profits the previous year.' As yet the club are keeping the faith. 'He doesn't look like a con-man,' says Revilla hopefully.  'I have told the boss that I will be available to play Saturday if picked', Barcelona defender Eric Abidal told the Barcelona dressing room on Wednesday as he delivered an emotive but good humoured ten minute speech to his team-mates ahead of the operation he went through to remove a tumour from his liver. Barcelona issued a statement on Thursday night that after three hours of surgery the tumour had been completely removed from Abidal's liver and he should be given the all-clear and allowed to go home in a week's time. Support: Real Madrid's Iker Casillas and Esteban Granero show their solidarity for Eric Abidal Real Madrid players put on supportive t-shirts after their win over Lyon in midweek. 'There are things that transcend rivalry' said Mourinho after the game - a timely message as the country begins to wind itself up for two clasicos - four if the Chamions League draw does English football a favour and pairs the two clubs together in Nyon.  Abidal to undergo surgery after Barca full-back is diagnosed with liver tumourGame in Spain: Raul may have snubbed Man United but is there an unlikely trip to Old Trafford ahead?  Explore more:People: Roman Abramovich Places: Barcelona, London, Lyon, Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain Organisations: London School of Economics


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