The Luxembourg home and offices of Flavio Becca, the businessman who is the backer of world number one-ranked team Leopard Trek which features the country’s star sportsmen Frank and Andy Schleck, have been raided as part of an investigation into fraudulent embezzlement, according to local press reports.
Luxembourg-published tabloid magazine Privat says the police raids were carried out on Tuesday and concern a number of companies with which Mr Becca, whose parents moved to the Grand Duchy from Italy when he was a child, is involved. The website Wort.lu reports that a spokesman for the public prosecutor has confirmed that the raids took place.
There is no suggestion that Leopard Trek is specifically involved in the investigation, which Privat suggests is related to tax issues that could take some time to resolve. It adds that no indictment has yet been placed against the entrepreneur, whose interests range from property to food.
News of the investigation of a backer of one of the sport's leading teams follows the revelation that the Padova enquiry in Italy has been increasingly focusing on the financial affairs of persons connected with the sport.
While there is no hint whatsoever that the raids are connected with Becca’s activities in cycling, they do throw a possibly unwelcome spotlight on his affairs in the wake of the recent announcement that RadioShack and Nissan will be sponsoring Leopard next year, with a number of riders moving across from the existing RadioShack team.
Becca, who earlier this year was said to have invested €15 million in Leopard Trek, remains team owner, with the new entity racing under the Leopard SA’s current ProTeam license, although it has been reported that the new sponsorship means that his financial backing next year will be at a lower level than in the team’s debut season.
Since press reports of what has been portrayed as a merger of the two teams first surfaced, the picture has been rather confused, however, with Leopard Trek and RadioShack putting out press releases confrming the rumours that contained a number of contradictions.
Moreover, the status of some riders for next season, particularly those whose contracts are held with the soon-to-be-defunct RadioShack team, remains unclear, while even the planned future name of the team itself – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek – appears to fall foul of UCI rules that only allow teams to have two sponsor names at ProTeam level, as pointed out by The Inner Ring blog.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.