Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Former Huddersfield Town player jailed for taking money from charity

Former Huddersfield town player Efe Sodje and his brothers have been jailed for taking money from a charity set up for poor African children.

Efe Sodje played for Huddersfield Town between 2003 and 2005 Credit: NCA

He sentenced Stephen Sodje, of Bexley, to two years and six months in prison, saying he lied repeatedly to the jury and was a "self-regarding and arrogant man with a strong sense of self-entitlement".

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

His lawyer Kieran Galvin said the conviction was "shattering" and a "massive fall from grace" for the defendant, who now worked as a carer and has two young step-daughters.

Father-of-one Efe Sodje, who was "the face" of the charity, was given 18 months in jail, having received around £7,500 plus an unknown amount of cash from the clay pigeon shoot.

He collapsed in the dock and staggered away supported on each side by officers.

Bright Sodje, of Sale, Greater Manchester, was jailed for 21 months for his part in "milking the charity".

He had received some £3,000, but also signed cheques to other family members totalling about £18,000.

Efe Sodje was sentenced to 18 months behind bars Credit: NCA

Ashley Carson, a businessman and director of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, and one of the city's MPs, Clive Betts, were recruited to give the charity respectability - but when they asked for bank statements and financial reports, they were fobbed off.

Once the pair resigned as trustees and directors in 2013, "the amount of money being transferred to the Sodje family increased dramatically.

The brothers will spend a combined total of just under 6 years in prison Credit: NCA

He sentenced Stephen Sodje, of Bexley, to two years and six months in prison, saying he lied repeatedly to the jury and was a "self-regarding and arrogant man with a strong sense of self-entitlement".

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

His lawyer Kieran Galvin said the conviction was "shattering" and a "massive fall from grace" for the defendant, who now worked as a carer and has two young step-daughters.

Father-of-one Efe Sodje, who was "the face" of the charity, was given 18 months in jail, having received around £7,500 plus an unknown amount of cash from the clay pigeon shoot.

He collapsed in the dock and staggered away supported on each side by officers.

Bright Sodje, of Sale, Greater Manchester, was jailed for 21 months for his part in "milking the charity".

He had received some £3,000, but also signed cheques to other family members totalling about £18,000.

Cash raised at black tie dinners, auctions, charity football matches and a clay pigeon shoot went into Sodje bank accounts.

The SSF held a charity football match at Sheffield Wednesday's grounds in 2009, and arranged a fundraising dinner at Charlton Football Club in September 2010.

In 2011, there was a gala dinner at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester for the SSF and the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital - a charity supported by England women's football coach Phil Neville.

Efe handed out Easter eggs - provided by the hospital - to child cancer patients, while five Sodje brothers attended a £150-a-head black tie dinner.

The event raised almost £11,500, but Mr Christopher said: "Not a penny went to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital."

– Julian Christopher QC,

You have brought shame upon yourselves and your family.

– Judge Michael Topolski QC

All three of these defendants in various ways exploited their own and their families' reputation, not only for the benefit of the poor children of the Niger valley but also for their own benefit.

In this case, the defendants were all well known and respected men, particularly in the world of football and sport both here and in Africa.

One (Efe) had the honour of playing for his country in the World Cup finals.

I have no doubt to some extent at least it was that form of respect that made it possible or more likely that their fans and admirers would make donations to the charity that had been formed by them in their name.

– Judge Michael Topolski QC