Football agent ‘looking forward to watching late Queen’s funeral’ before arrest

Saif Alrubie was arrested coming off a plane at Heathrow Airport on September 19 2022.

Saif Alrubie outside Southwark Crown Court in London
Saif Alrubie outside Southwark Crown Court in London (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

A football agent accused of sending a threatening email to a former Chelsea director, demanding payment over the transfer of Kurt Zouma to West Ham, told police he had been looking forward to watching the late Queen’s funeral before he got arrested, a court has heard.

Saif Alrubie was arrested coming off a plane at Heathrow Airport on September 19 2022 – the day of the funeral – and told officers during his police interview that he was unhappy being arrested “like I’m Pablo Escobar”.

The 45-year-old, who claimed he played a part in facilitating the transfer of the French defender in August 2021 for about £29 million, considered he was owed a percentage of the transfer amount and demanded payment from Marina Granovskaia, 49, Southwark Crown Court heard.

But the prosecution say Alrubie was not on the “deal sheet” created for the sale, and had “no right to or credible expectation to” benefit from the transfer.

Marina Granovskaia gave evidence at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday
Marina Granovskaia gave evidence at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The defendant, of Fulham, west London, sent an email to Ms Granovskaia on May 22 2022 – when she was director of football at Chelsea – in which prosecutors say he implied she might “suffer the fate” of another agent, Kia Joorabchian, who was allegedly accosted and intimidated by men demanding payment.

In an interview with police on September 19 that year, Alrubie said: “I was hoping to come in this morning and watch the funeral like everyone else in the world.

“Wanted to do it with my mum and dad.”

“I was looking forward to watching the Queen’s funeral,” he added.

He added that he was instead made to feel like “a drug dealer”.

“For me to get arrested on a plane like I’m Pablo Escobar, having gone 24 hours with no sleep and slung in a cell for five hours, I’m not very happy with it,” he said.

Alrubie told police that he and Ms Granovskaia – who he described as the “right hand person” of Chelsea’s former owner Roman Abramovich – had a “civil financial dispute” over a “disagreement” involving the transfer of Mr Zouma.

Alrubie said Ms Granovskaia used a “corporate excuse” to get out of paying him commission.

He explained that he did not “kick up a fuss” nearer to the time of the transfer because he was working as an intermediary for another Chelsea player, but decided to send the email on May 22 2022 at the end of the season.

Asked about his reference to Mr Joorabchian in the email, Alrubie told police: “He owed me about £50,000 for a year.

“All that happened was he was spotted having dinner with the Brazilian football team and one of my old associates, no longer, went up to him…and Kia then said: ‘Okay I’m going to pay.’

“So he ended up handing over his watch voluntarily.

“The day after he got his watch back and paid the money and that was it.

“Nothing happened, nothing physical, nothing menacing.”

He denied the suggestion that his “intent” in referencing Mr Joorabchian in the email he sent Ms Granovskaia was to imply that she would be similarly approached.

“My intent is I’m owed money so I’m not going to lay down like an idiot and let her take the piss out of me,” Alrubie told police.

Alrubie explained he had a meeting in Dubai a few weeks after sending the email with representatives from a firm that managed Chelsea Football Club’s security.

He said he felt the meeting “dealt with and addressed” the issue.

The court heard Ms Granovskaia previously told Alrubie that if Mr Zouma sold for more than 30 million euros he would get a commission, but the prosecution told jurors there was “nothing binding” about those exchanges because it was “pre-contract”.

Kurt Zouma
Kurt Zouma (Steven Paston/PA)

It is alleged that Alrubie sent the email to Ms Granovskaia, saying he and his partners are owed £300,000, before continuing: “If Chelsea don’t pay it then that debt will be on you to pay.

“I am done trying to be nice to you. And feel free to go to your boss who’s had his recent problems and tell him that you have a big problem with me as long as you tell him the truth about your behaviour. Because in life you can’t be wrong and strong.”

He added: “I’m sure you’ve heard the story about your other friend Kia when he owed me money for a year and how he ended up paying it. Wouldn’t want you to be in the same situation just because you have a personal issue with me.”

Jurors heard police looked into Mr Joorabchian’s allegation and found “no link” between the incident and Alrubie.

Mr Joorabchian had been due to come to court to give evidence on Tuesday, but the jury heard he told police he flew to the US on a private jet on Monday night.

The defendant denies a single charge of sending an electronic communication with intent to cause distress or anxiety and the trial continues.