A RETIRED Macclesfield town star helped launder cash from an £80,000 international fraud, a court heard.
Former Macclesfield Town assistant manager Efe Sodje is on trial at the Old Bailey alongside his two footballer brothers Sam and Akpo and two other men, Emmanuel Ehikhamen and Andrew Oruma.
They are accused of being involved in channelling proceeds from an alleged scam which ‘targeted firms in Columbia, India, Italy and Abu Dhabi’. Akpo Sodje now lives in Dubai and has declined to return to Britain to be interviewed by detectives.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC told jurors the ‘total fraud’ over the course of a month in 2013 amounted to just under £80,000. He said: “This case is about international money laundering. In November 2013 a number of companies around the world - in Columbia, India, Italy and Abu Dhabi - were the victims of fraud.
“They were sent emails which they thought came from their suppliers to whom they owed money, but the emails provided new, false, bank details to which the money should apparently be sent.
“There were two bank accounts to which these companies were tricked into sending money.
“One belonged to the first defendant, Emmanuel Ehikhamen, the other to a man named Akpo Sodje, brother of the defendants Efe Sodje and Sam Sodje.
“The prosecution allege that all four of them and also the defendant Andrew Oruma were involved in an arrangement to facilitate the receiving and onward transmission of money which had been obtained by these frauds, keeping some as financial rewards for their assistance.”
Mr Christopher told jurors there was no evidence any of the defendants were involved in the actual fraud. The evidence against them came from the way the money was passed between bank accounts as well as text and WhatsApp messages.
The prosecutor said the issue in the trial would be whether the defendants received money, transferred it on or withdrew it in cash knowing or suspecting it was the proceeds of crime.
Efe Sodje, 35, , of Cheadle, Stockport, played 675 times during his professional career and represented Nigeria in the 2000 African Cup of Nations and the 2002 World Cup.
He made almost 200 appearances for Bury during his five year stint at Gigg Lane and played 89 times for Macclesfield during two spells at the club, which included two years as player assistant manager.
Sam Sodje is a former Nigerian international who has played for Charlton, West Brom, Watford and Leeds as a defender.
Akpo Sodje, who was notorious for his colourful hairstyles, has previously played for Huddersfield, QPR and Charlton as well as for a club in China.
Efe Sodje, Sam Sodje, 38, of Dartford, Kent, Ehikhamen, 42, of south-east London, and Oruma, 49, of Bexley, south London, deny money laundering.