Three brothers, one of whom is a former footballer, have been imprisoned for defrauding their charity’s donors of more than £60,000, it can now be reported.
Stephen Sodje, 43, of Abbey Wood in London, Bright Sodje, 51, of Sale in Cheshire, and Efe Sodje, 35, of Gatley in Cheshire, were found guilty at the Central Criminal Court of siphoning money from their charity, the now defunct Sodje Sports Foundation.
Reporting restrictions on the case were lifted yesterday after a "number of linked legal proceedings" were completed, a statement from the National Crime Agency said.
Another brother, the former Premier League footballer Sam Sodje, was found not guilty of fraudulent trading last week.
In September 2017, Stephen Sodje was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, Efe Sodje was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Bright Sodje was given 21 months in jail, the NCA said yesterday.
Efe Sodje was a professional footballer for clubs including Huddersfield Town, as well as for the Nigeria national team, and Bright Sodje is a former professional rugby player.
According to the Charity Commission, the Sodje Sports Foundation was registered as a charity in March 2010 with the aim of helping poor children in the Niger delta.
Bright Sodje was a trustee for the charity from 2010 to 2013, and Stephen Sodje was the registered contact from 2013 until the charity’s closure in 2014.
The National Crime Agency said the brothers defrauded donors of at least £63,000, with donations often ending up in personal bank accounts.
The brothers also often asked donors to pay donations directly to their personal accounts.
Chris Farrimond, deputy director of the NCA, said: "Bright, Efe and Stephen Sodje promoted themselves as generous, community-minded figures when they were knowingly defrauding people who thought they were helping deprived children in Nigeria.
"NCA financial investigators built a detailed picture of the movement of money in and out of the foundation and showed beyond doubt that for most of the foundation’s existence there was no charitable purpose."
Tracy Howarth, head of regulatory compliance at the Charity Commission, said the Sodje brothers "misused their privileged position to exploit donors and supporters, and their financial gain came at the expense of the children and causes the charity was supposed to support and of the trust and goodwill that donors and supporters place in those responsible for charity".
A fifth brother, Akpo Sodje, 37, is wanted in connection with the fraud and fled the UK during the investigation. A European arrest warrant had been issued, the NCA said.