Kia Joorabchian ‘accosted’ by debt collectors working for agent Saif Alrubie, court told

<span>Saif Alrubie arriving at Southwark crown court in London, where he is charged with sending Marina Granovskaia an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Saif Alrubie arriving at Southwark crown court in London, where he is charged with sending Marina Granovskaia an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

One of the Premier League’s best known football agents was confronted by about 12 debt collectors at his office – and separately relieved of his expensive watch at a restaurant – as part of an effort to pressure him into repaying money, Southwark crown court has heard.

Kia Joorabchian - whose footballer clients have included Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Philippe Coutinho - was “accosted” by associates of another agent, Saif Alrubie, as part of efforts to “intimidate him into handing over bundles of cash”, the jury was told.

The supposed incident was relayed to the court as Alrubie stood trial for a separate alleged threat, which has resulted in him being charged with sending an “electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety” to Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s director of football when the club was owned by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

The message to Granovskaia was sent as Alrubie pursued payment for what he claims was his role in the transfer of France defender Kurt Zouma from Chelsea to West Ham United in 2021 – a deal for which he says he was owed about £300,000 in fees.

On 22 May 2022, Alrubie sent an email chasing Granovskaia for payment, which appeared to also reference the Joorabchian incident. The jury was told it read: “In summary, you owe me and my partners 300k which needs to get paid ASAP. If Chelsea don’t pay it then that debt will be on you to pay. I am done trying to be nice to you.”

“I look forward to hearing from you on the above matters and hopefully have a swift solution to them otherwise I guess I will see you when I see you,” the message continued. “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.’’

When asked how the message made her feel, Granovskaia told the court: “Very uncomfortable would be an understatement. I felt threatened. Physically threatened.”

Prosecutor Arizuna Asante told jurors that Granovskaia had previously said to Alrubie that if Zouma sold for more than €30m he would receive a commission, but the prosecution told jurors there was “nothing binding” about those exchanges because it was “pre contract”. There is a further dispute between the prosecution and the defence regarding the exact value of the Zouma transfer – although Granovskaia told the court that West Ham paid Chelsea £29m (€34m) including “add-ons”.

When the sale completed a so-called “deal sheet” was created - which outlined intermediaries working on the transfer and was signed by Zouma. Alrubie’s name was not on the document, the jury heard, with defence barrister Matthew Radstone telling telling Granovskaia: “You cut him out, didn’t you?”

Granovskaia replied: “That’s not how I see it.”

Radstone also suggested that Granovskaia’s security detail did not raise any concerns about the email when they subsequently met with Alrubie in Dubai.

Granovskaia worked for Abramovich in Russia, before coming to London with the oligarch after he acquired Chelsea in 2003.

She left the club in 2022 when the Abramovich sold the club after he was placed under sanction by the UK Foreign Office following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Alrubie denies he is guilty of the offence contrary to the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

The case continues.