BARCELONA, Spain, Feb 2, (AP): A Spanish court is investigating the alleged use of false passports by two American basketball players.
Both players allegedly used false passports issued by Equatorial Guinea in order to give their respective teams the ability to add another non-European player to its respective rosters.
Due to a competition rule which allows players from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to count as Europeans, both sides then freed up one additional spot.
The players in question are Marcus Slaughter and Andy Panko, who respectively played for Real Madrid and Fuenlabrada last season.
Last season, Madrid won both the Spanish league and cup along with the Euroleague title.
ACB league spokesman Mario Hernando and Spain’s Higher Sports Council confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that a Madrid court is looking into the case.
The spokesman of the Spanish basketball federation, Jordi Roman, told the AP that the federation alerted the league when it found that the numbers on Slaughter’s and Panko’s passports from Equatorial Guinea matched up.
The league then passed on information to Spanish police last April, leading to the court investigation.
Hernando said that Slaughter’s request to be enrolled with an Equatorial Guinea passport last season was processed normally because at first it showed no irregularities.
“The problem came up with Panko. The alarm went off because his passport number was identical to Slaughter’s,” Hernando said.
“From the very beginning we have collaborated with the government institutions,” Hernando said. “We want to defend the image and honor of the ACB if it is confirmed that it is true that there was a falsification.”
Rival club Barcelona issued a statement on Monday saying it will ask the court for it to be considered as an “aggrieved party.” Barcelona lost the Spanish league and cup finals to Madrid last season.
Spain’s Higher Sports Council said that any possibly penalties will depend on the development of the investigation.
Slaughter left Madrid to play in Turkey this season, while Panko now plays in France.
Real Madrid did not immediately respond to calls and emails from the AP.
Panko has denied any wrongdoing to Spanish media.