Ex-Super Eagles defender, Efe Sodje and two of his brothers, Stephen and Bright, have been jailed for misappropriating tens of thousands of pounds from a charity set up to help poor African children.
The three brothers: Efe, 46, Stephen, 43, a former footballer and Bright, 52, ex-rugby player,, were found guilty by a judge of milking the Sodje Sports Foundation (SSF), a fundraising campaign set up by them in 2009 to help provide sporting facilities to youngsters in Nigeria.
The judge, Michael Topolski QC told the defendants: “You have brought shame upon yourselves and your family.”
The brothers’ convictions, which was in 2017, is only been reported now following the conclusion of a separate money laundering case involving the former Sam Sodje, Nigeria and Reading defender Sam Sodje, 39, who was cleared.
Efe who played for Crewe, Huddersfield and Bury during his career and his two brothers and his two brothers are believed to have milked much of the cash raised at black tie dinners, auctions, charity football matches and a clay pigeon shoot.
Ashley Carson, a businessman and director of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, and Clive Betts, one of the city’s MPs, were appointed as trustess / directors to give the charity respectability, but were never given access to the charity’s bank statements and financial reports. This led to their resignation from the Charity.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC told the court that the pair’s resignation in 2013, led to widescale milking of the charity by the brothers as “the amount of money being transferred to the Sodje family increased dramatically.”
The SSF held a charity football match at Sheffield Wednesday’s grounds in 2009, and arranged a fundraising dinner at Charlton Football Club in September 2010. In 2011, there was a gala dinner at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester for the SSF and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – a charity supported by England women’s football coach Phil Neville.
Efe handed out Easter eggs – provided by the hospital – to child cancer patients, while a £150-a-head black tie dinner was also organised. The event raised almost £11,500, but Mr Christopher said: “Not a penny went to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.”
Stephen was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. The judge said he lied repeatedly to the jury and was a “self-regarding and arrogant man with a strong sense of self-entitlement”.
Father-of-one Efe, who was “the face” of the charity, was given 18 months in jail, having received around £7,500 plus an unknown amount of cash from the clay pigeon shoot.
Bright was jailed for 21 months for his part in “milking the charity”.