Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Ferrari's Money Trail

CyclingNews is reporting some potentially key evidence in the Lance Armstrong investigation that started nearly a year ago when Floyd Landis accused Lance and his teams of systematic doping. The article said that an Italian newspaper is reporting that "the investigation headed by...Jeff Novitzky has evolved from a doping investigation into a financial investigation." The article explains that investigators are working to follow the money trail into and out of Michelle Ferrari's bank accounts and have seized his accounts to do so. As I told VeloNation last year...
"If ... [Novitsky] could get documentation of a payment made to an individual associated with doping, such as a figure like doctor [Michelle Ferrari]...then he could prove that USPS cycling funds were used for doping. In a court case, a document such as that would be fairly hard evidence of fraud on the part of the team that Armstrong belonged to, even if he was never shown to have failed a doping test."
Depending on what they find, this evidence could be a huge breakthrough in the Lance Armstrong investigation. The Grand Jury will likely be hard pressed not to indict Lance if Novitzky can show money flowing into and out of Ferrari's accounts and then link that money to doping for Lance and his teammates. Even large sums of money will be hard to claim were simply for normal coaching services. Why would Lance and his team need to pay Ferrari millions when he already has other coaches such as Chris Carmichael?

In addition, the money trail itself could lead to charges of criminal activity besides doping or fraud including money laundering and tax avoidance. Here are a few more key quotes from CyclingNews:
[The Italian newspaper] suggests the recent police search of Michele Scarponi...and the seizing of medical records and contracts of five riders at the Katusha offices...was only a small step in the investigation. The most important operations may have already been carried out. The investigators have apparently studied where payments to Dr. Ferrari originated from and have frozen some bank accounts and seized the money. There are also apparently traces of cash transfers from the USA to Ferrari in Switzerland.
The article goes on to say that it is suspected that Dr. Ferrari's operation "may have generated around 15 million Euro" and involved nearly 100 people "including rider agents who offered their clients packages of services that included Swiss lawyers and Swiss bank accounts."

Hard money trail evidence connecting Ferrari to Lance to US Postal to doping could be what ultimately sends Lance to jail, along with some teammates, managers, and others. Novitzky has his work cut out for him but this may be the break he needs to uncover the cycling mafia and its King Pin...

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