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Theft probe hits Russian football ahead of World Cup

Russia s World Cup preparations have been hit by an embezzlement probe involving the tournament s anti-discrimination chief Alexei Smertin.

Moscow s RBK business news site reported on Sunday that the interior ministry was looking into a complaint filed by Premier League club Dynamo Moscow against its previous leadership.

Dynamo believe at least 1.6 million euros ($2 million) were transferred from the club to shell companies linked to former general director Yevgeny Muravyov.

The money was paid under suspicious contracts signed by Smertin, who is also the team s executive director.

Smertin serves as the World Cup s anti-racism inspector and is the go-to official in cases of player or fan abuse.

The 42-year-old was the national team captain in 2004-05 and joined Dynamo s management in 2013.

RBK said Smertin s signature also appeared on other dubious financial records unearthed during an audit.

The Izvestia daily had previously quoted a source at Dynamo saying Smertin himself was not suspected of benefiting from the scheme.

Smertin “is not being accused of unscrupulousness”, the source said.

“At the same time, a number of executives believe that he could have approached the documents he was signing more judiciously.”

Dynamo chairman Vladimir Strzhalkovsky told RBK that Smertin “was firmly told to sign” the contracts by the former general director.

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