Watford under investigation over forged bank letter

Football League and the Premier League club examine claims that false documentation was used in Gino Pozzo takeover

(Image credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Watford are under investigation over claims a forged bank letter was sent to the Football League in 2014 when Gino Pozzo became the Hornets owner.

The letter, obtained by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which apparently comes from HSBC bank was submitted as proof that Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, a key part of the takeover process.

It says that Hornets Investment Limited was in a position to issue a "cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee" for £7m to fund the club during the 2014-15 season, during which they won promotion to the Premier League.

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"Fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world's largest banks, the letter was submitted to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before the club's 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign," says the paper.

The club and EFL are investigating the claims, but the Telegraph says Watford "face a heavy fine, and possibly a points deduction". It also says that the sanctions could include "expulsions from competitions".

"There is no known precedent in professional English football for the offence, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts," adds the paper.

The club have not denied filing the letter, but insist they would not have done so intentionally, and "there is nothing to indicate Pozzo himself had any knowledge that a forged HSBC letter had been obtained or submitted on his behalf" when he took control of the club from his father, Giampaolo, in 2014.

Watford’s executive chairman, Raffaele Riva, told the paper the letter had been obtained by a "third party".

Pozzo may be required to show that he did have the money available in 2014, but Watford are confident they can do that. "Since taking full charge of the club two years ago, Pozzo Jnr has pumped in more than £20m of investment, helping the club consolidate in the Premier League," says the Daily Mail.

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