Football agent told by judge to stop being ‘confrontational’ in court

A football agent accused of sending a threatening email to a former Chelsea director has been warned to stop being “confrontational” as he was cross-examined in court.

Saif Alrubie, who claimed he played a part in facilitating the transfer of Kurt Zouma in August 2021 from Chelsea to West Ham for about £29 million, considered he was owed a percentage of the transfer amount and demanded payment from Marina Granovskaia, 49.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, the 45-year-old defendant described Ms Granovskaia as the “right hand” of Chelsea’s former owner, Roman Abramovich, and said threatening someone with the “might” of the Russian businessman behind them would be a “suicide mission”.

Marina Granovskai arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London
Marina Granovskaia gave evidence at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The defendant, of Fulham, west London, sent an email to Ms Granovskaia on May 22 2022 – when she was director of football at Chelsea – in which prosecutors said he implied she might “suffer the fate” of another agent, Kia Joorabchian, who was allegedly accosted and intimidated by people demanding payment.

Under cross-examination at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, Alrubie was told that he is expected to answer, not ask, questions.

Judge David Tomlinson said: “This confrontation has to stop. If I think you are being asked an unfair question I will say so.

“If I don’t intervene then please just listen to the question and answer it to the best of your ability.”

Alrubie said: “I’m sorry your honour.”

Later, when the defendant was being asked about his reference to Mr Joorabchian in the email, the judge interrupted his answer and said: “Stop, stop, stop. Just focus please.

“They are sentences that no-one forced you to write, they are sentences you chose to write. It is legitimate to be asked questions about what was in your mind.

“Just listen to the question and answer it.”

The judge reiterated the request later on and added: “It is so confrontational and unnecessary.”

Kurt Zouma
Saif Alrubie claimed he played a part in facilitating the transfer of Kurt Zouma in August 2021 from Chelsea to West Ham (Steven Paston/PA)

Alrubie told jurors that Ms Granovskaia “clearly lied to hide the true facts and nature of the transfer fee”.

He said his position is “a million per cent” that there was nothing in his email that could amount to a threat.

“There was no threat,” Alrubie said. “No threat made, no threat perceived, apart from the potential consequences of legal action.”

He added that he “never intended anything but” the threat of legal action.

Alrubie sent the email to Ms Granovskaia, saying he and his partners are owed £300,000, before continuing: “I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia when he owed me money for a year and how he ended up paying it. Wouldn’t want you to be in the same situation just because you have a personal issue with me.”

Jurors have heard that when asked about Mr Joorabchian, Alrubie told police during an interview: “He owed me about £50,000 for a year.

“All that happened was he was spotted having dinner with the Brazilian football team and one of my old associates, no longer, went up to him… and Kia then said: ‘OK, I’m going to pay.’

“So he ended up handing over his watch voluntarily.

“The day after he got his watch back and paid the money and that was it.

“Nothing happened, nothing physical, nothing menacing.”

On Thursday, the defendant told the court the incident he was referring to when talking to the police happened in 2009, that no threat or intimidation was used, and that it was separate to a 2013 incident during which Mr Joorabchian claims he was intimidated.

Alrubie insisted he had nothing to do with the 2013 incident and jurors have heard police looked into Mr Joorabchian’s allegation and found “no link” between the incident and the defendant.

Saif Alrubie court case
Saif Alrubie arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

He said his reference to Mr Joorabchian in the email he sent Ms Granovskaia was a reference to financial issues he had with the agent “in general”.

The court heard Ms Granovskaia previously told Alrubie that if Mr Zouma sold for more than 30 million euros he would get a commission, but the prosecution told jurors there was “nothing binding” about those exchanges because it was “pre-contract”.

Alrubie reiterated to the court that he was due a commission and was “knocked” out of the deal.

Mr Joorabchian had been due to come to court to give evidence on Tuesday, but the jury heard he told police he flew to the US on a private jet on Monday night.

The defendant denies a single charge of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety and the trial continues.