Police look at three more passport cases

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The Independent Football

Investigations are still taking place into at least three other potential cases of alleged passport abuse by overseas players in English football, as enquiries continue into the Newcastle United winger Nolberto Solano.

Solano, who was questioned on Tuesday by officers investigating suspected passport irregularities, has been released on police bail and was expected to be included in the Magpies' squad for last night's Worthington Cup tie against Brentford.

However, the widespread operation launched by the Immigration Service, which the Football Association has been assisting, has meant almost 200 overseas players in the English game have been investigated. It is understood that at least four players, including Solano, are still the subject of further enquiries.

The Immigration Service has previously concentrated on the former Arsenal players Silvinho and Tomas Danilevicius, with the Gunners maintaining their innocence in both cases. Silvinho has since moved to Celta Vigo, where the left-back is now registered as Brazilian rather than Portuguese as he was at Highbury. The Lithuanian international striker Danilevicius, who was on a Greek passport at Arsenal, has gone to the Belgian club Beveren.

Commenting on the wider enquiry, a Home Office spokesperson confirmed: "There has been an investigation which has looked at nearly 200 footballers in the Premier League and Football League. There are still ongoing enquiries into a number of cases to confirm that EU documentation has been properly issued.

"Phase one has been to uncover the scale of the problem, to highlight possible cases of abuse and to identify areas of weakness in procedures. This is continuing. Phase two will be to take forward specific investigations, to put in place new monitoring procedures and to liaise with our counterparts in Europe." Checking whether documents are counterfeit is a relatively short process, but making sure that passports have been correctly issued and that nationality claims are valid takes rather longer.

"The Immigration Service is liaising with the police to consider what action should be taken and whether any criminal acts have been committed by players, club officials or agents," the Home Office official added. "The Football Association are being kept informed throughout the process.

"Northumbria Police have interviewed a footballer as a result of information passed to them by the Immigration Service, but we cannot talk about individual cases." It is understood that Solano was questioned about the alleged use of false documents to obtain a passport. The Peruvian was initially granted a work permit to play in England because of his involvement with his national side. He later obtained a Greek passport, for which he qualified through his grandmother, but has since re-registered as Peruvian.

Northumbria Police will be sending a file on Solano to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether to proceed with the case. The 26-year-old winger, who joined Newcastle from Boca Juniors in 1998, has denied any wrong-doing and the club are currently standing by him.