Soccer-Benfica names former player Rui Costa as president

·2-min read

By Sergio Goncalves and Catarina Demony

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese football club Benfica appointed former player Rui Costa as its new president on Friday to replace Luis Filipe Vieira, who suspended his duties after he was detained as part of an investigation into alleged tax fraud and money laundering.

In a statement, Benfica said Rui Costa, 49, currently the vice president of the country's most popular club, takes over as president, "with immediate effect, under the terms of the Club's statutes".

"This appointment had the unanimous support of all members of the board of Benfica, " it said.

Vieira, re-elected in October last year, was taken into custody on Wednesday for questioning over deals worth more than 100 million euros ($118 million) that may have caused large losses to the state and several companies.

Former midfielder Costa, who retired from international football after the 2004 European Championships, spent most of his career with Lisbon-based Benfica and with two Italian teams, Fiorentina and AC Milan.

The suspension of his role as president of the club and of Benfica SAD, which manages the professional football business, came into force "with immediate effect", his lawyer Manuel Magalhaes e Silva told reporters earlier on Friday.

Still, "a suspension (of duties) is not a resignation," Magalhaes e Silva added.

The prosecutors' office alleged that Vieira's offences including fraud, money laundering and forgery had been committed since 2014. Three more people, not named by the prosecutor, were also detained.

Local newspaper Sol said the investigation was related to loans granted by Portuguese lender Novo Banco to Vieira's business group as well as to the sale of shares in Benfica SAD.

Vieira is to appear before a judge on Friday.

A parliamentary inquiry into Novo Banco found Vieira's business group owed the bank around 400 million euros. Portugal's Resolution Fund owns 25% of Novo Banco.

($1 = 0.8434 euros)

(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves, Catarina Demony; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Ken Ferris)