Footballing brothers jailed for defrauding children's charity

    Sodje Sports Foundation court case. Bright and Efe Sodje (right) at the Old Bailey, London where they were sentenced to prison for fraudulent trading in 2017.

    Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Three brothers from a known sporting family have been jailed for siphoning cash from their foundation, UK's National Crime Agency said.

    Ex-footballers Efe Sodje, 46, and Stephen Sodje, 43, and ex-rugby player Bright Sodje, 51, were found guilty of diverting cash from the Sodje Sports Foundation (SSF) set up in 2009 to help children in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region.
    They were jailed for 18, 21 and 30 months respectively by a judge at the Central Criminal Court in London in 2017.
      The NCA said the brothers used their status and business connections to garner support and donations but failed to remit the funds to the charity.
      The brothers used around £63,000 raised from charity events between 2011 to 2014 for their own gain, according to the NCA.
      They organized charity football matches and black-tie dinners over the period to raise funds, but none of it got to the children, the agency said on its website. Donors also sent around £34,000 to their accounts.
      The brothers' 2017 convictions can only now be reported after a judge lifted reporting restrictions on the case after a verdict was reached in a criminal trial against another of the brothers -- former Premier league footballer Okeremute 'Sam' Samuel.
      Sodje, 39, was tried alongside his brothers but was cleared in the initial 2017 trial. He was later prosecuted in a separate money laundering trial which ended on January 14 this year, the agency said.
      Sam Sodje arrived at the Old Bailey, London on December 12, 2016 where he faced charges of fraudulent trading in relation to running of the Sodje Sports Foundation.
      The Sodjes are a family of 11 siblings born in Greenwich, southeast London to Nigerian parents, according to UK media reports.
      Efe played professional football for several clubs in the UK and represented the Nigerian national team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
      "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 deputy director Chris Farrimond said in a statement.
      The NCA said its financial investigators revealed the movement of money in and out of the foundation to establish "there was no charitable purpose" for most of the foundation's existence.
      The NCA worked with the UK's Charity Commission to secure the prosecutions against the three brothers.
        Another Sodje brother, Akpo, is still wanted in connection with the fraud charges.
        The NCA said he fled the UK during the investigation and an arrest warrant has been issued for his arrest.