Soccer agent 'threatened' Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Crystal Palace v West Ham United

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - A soccer agent sent a threatening email to a senior director at Premier League club Chelsea FC, demanding a six-figure commission over the transfer of French defender Kurt Zouma, prosecutors told a London court on Tuesday.

Saif Rubie sent an email to Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea's director of football under former owner Roman Abramovich, in May 2022 after Zouma's transfer to West Ham from Chelsea the previous year.

The 45-year-old has pleaded not guilty to one charge under the Malicious Communications Act and his trial at Southwark Crown Court began on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Arizuna Asante said Rubie – whose name appeared on court lists as Saif Alrubie – told Granovskaia that he and his partners were owed 300,000 pounds ($373,000) over the deal.

Granovskaia gave evidence on Tuesday that Chelsea received a total of 29.1 million pounds, which included 4.1 million pounds that was paid to Zouma as a "termination payment".

In an email to Granovskaia, Rubie said: "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."

Asante told jurors that was a reference to an incident involving soccer agent Kia Joorabchian, who was allegedly accosted in a restaurant and had his watch taken before he was faced with demands for money at his office in 2008.

Granovskaia said on Tuesday that she had a "vague recollection" of having previously heard of the alleged incident involving Joorabchian when she received Rubie's email.

Asked how Rubie's email made her feel, Granovskaia said: "It made me feel very nervous, it made me worry and it made me feel threatened." She added that she thought "I might be faced with some people demanding money from me".

Granovskaia said in response to questions from Rubie's lawyer Matthew Radstone that, before the email, Rubie "never threatened me, either on paper or in person".

She also said she was not aware that Joorabchian had not mentioned Rubie's name when he reported the alleged incident to the police.

The trial is expected to conclude next week.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)