THE player whose transfer is at the heart of the footie tax probe pocketed nearly £1million for image rights when he joined Newcastle on a “free”.
Demba Ba’s cash was part of a £2million fee the Magpies paid to an agent, who also earmarked £375,000 to go to a company registered in Panama.
The Senegal striker, 31, moved to the club from West Ham in June 2011 — and the deal sparked HMRC’s biggest criminal investigation into football.
The Sun told that officers raided Newcastle and West Ham seizing documents and computers.
Sources confirmed the taxman is also investigating the £9.3million transfer of Papiss Cisse to Newcastle in 2012.
But his agent Madou Diene told The Sun: “I’ve had no contact with any official yet. I’m clean.”
Separately, former Magpies ace Sylvain Marveaux was named as one of four people arrested in France as part of the probe.
Agent Habib Sissoko, who was involved in the Ba deal, was another.
The £2million Ba cash was paid by Newcastle into the FA’s clearing system, before being moved by a law firm to five parties under the instruction of agent Simon Stainrod.
Barry Silkman, who has strong links to West Ham, got £275,000, Sissoko’s firm Quatorze Management got £200,000 and Ba Corporation £913,500.
A tax source said: “If the Ba payment was a golden hello, it should be assessed and taxed. If Ba hasn’t paid tax on this, there is a clearly an avoidance issue.”
There is no suggestion the money was not declared or taxed.
A Newcastle source insisted the club has been “above board in everything”.
They added: “HMRC are investigating it because we have been involved with various agents. We can’t do anything about an agent shoving money into an account in Panama.”
Neither Mr Stainrod nor Mr Silkman were available to comment. Sissoko is under arrest.