‘Appalling crime’ – MP speaks out after three brothers of former Sheffield Wednesday star siphoned off charity money 

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A Sheffield MP has spoken out after three brothers who recruited him to help run their charity were jailed for siphoning off cash for themselves.  

Ex-footballers Efe Sodje, aged 46, and Stephen Sodje, aged 43, and former rugby player Bright Sodje, aged 52, were found guilty and jailed for taking money from their family charity, the Sodje Sports Foundation, that was intended for poor children in Africa. 

Left to right are Bright, Stephen and Efe Sodje. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Left to right are Bright, Stephen and Efe Sodje. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

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A trial heard how the Sodjes recruited Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts and Ashley Carson, a businessman and former director of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, to give the charity respectability.

However, when Mr Betts and Mr Carson asked for bank statements and financial reports, they were fobbed off. Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said once the pair resigned as trustees and directors in 2013, "the amount of money being transferred to the Sodje family increased dramatically."

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Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts.

Mr Betts told The Star that he welcomed news that the trio have been put behind bars for their crimes.  

He said: “I am pleased that justice has been served and all credit to the police who worked diligently on this case. 

“The original idea itself was a good one - to help children in Africa who have an interest in football and to bring them education.

“But they used it for their own gains. It is an appalling crime.”  

The Sodjes set up their charity in 2009 to help provide sporting facilities to youngsters in Nigeria.

They organised a number of black tie dinners, auctions and charity football matches – including one at Hillsborough Stadium in 2009. 

But cash raised from a number of the events went into Sodje bank accounts. 

Sentencing, Judge Michael Topolski QC told the defendants: "You have brought shame upon yourselves and your family."

Stephen Sodje, of Bexley, south London, was jailed for two years and six months. 

The court heard he received about £30, 000 from the charity funds, but continued to protest his innocence, describing it as expenses or wages.

Father-of-one Efe Sodje, of Cheadle, Greater Manchester, was given 18 months in jail, having received around £7,500 plus an unknown amount of cash from a fundraising clay pigeon shoot.

Bright Sodje, of Sale, Greater Manchester, was jailed for 21 months for his part. 

The court was told he had received some £3,000, but also signed cheques to other family members totalling about £18,000.

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The trio are the brothers of former Owls striker Akpo Sodje, aged 37, who was also implicated but moved to Dubai and has refused to return to Britain to be interviewed.  

The brothers' convictions in 2017 can only now be reported at the conclusion of a separate money laundering case involving Efe and
ex-Premiership star Sam Sodje, aged 39, who was cleared over the fraud.

Following a retrial, ex-Reading and Nigeria defender Sam Sodje, of Dartford in Kent, was also found not guilty of taking part in a scam in
which bank accounts were used to channel cash from companies around the world in 2013.

Efe was cleared of money laundering last year but Emmanuel Ehikhamen, aged 53, of south-east London, and Andrew Oruma, aged 50, of Bexley, south London, were convicted.