The cast of dark and unsavoury characters associated with Pompey’s not-too-distant past is mind-boggling by the standards of any normal club.
Two former owners jailed in the past couple of years with fraud and forgery on their rap sheet. A de facto third initially convicted of being an arms dealer and going on the run, before seeing a six-year sentence dropped for a three-year term for tax evasion and money laundering.
And then the long line of chancers in saviours’ clothing who purported to be the owners to keep Portsmouth Football Club alive.
They ranged from a bankrupt businessman banned from involvement in a Football League club to a supposed bidder cleared of damaging a £24m masterpiece having suffered ‘paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations’. They outrageously were just a couple of the outlandish and bizarre list of players in the most cautionary of tales which appears, incidentally, to continue to go unheeded by football.
So you’d really have to go some to stand out in that crowd, but in the shape of the former Pompey player once tagged a Premier League superstar in the making we may have found the recipient of such a dubious honour.
Step forward Jhon Eduis Viafara Mina.
His is an alleged tale to earn admiring glances from the biggest and most renowned narco terrorist of them all in Pablo Escobar, who could’ve been on first-name terms with the man who arrived at Fratton Park for a supposed £1.6m in 2005 had he still been alive and the accusations aimed at the ex-player true.
Shortly after that was announced, The News were asked to stop reporting the amount Pompey initially quoted they’d paid Colombian outfit Once Caldas for the then 26-year-old. Evidently a figure which had been inflated to impress fans had caused serious questions to be asked over where the rest of the money had disappeared, by those benefitting financially from the deal.
The reason for the grave and urgent nature of those requests became somewhat clearer in March, when Viafara was arrested after crashing a car while drink-driving and speeding in the southern Colombian town of Cali.
Those crimes were to be the least of the worries of a man who made 15 Blues appearances, however, when he and four others were held as part of an operation involving the US Drug Enforcement Agency and local Colombian authorities.
Viafara now stands accused of smuggling four tonnes of cocaine into the United States and is facing extradition on drug-trafficking charges, as widely reported after his arrest.
In allegations straight from episodes of Narcos and Breaking Bad, the 40-year-old is tied to the infamous Clan del Golfo and blood-thirsty Sinaloa cartels, according to Spanish-language daily El Pais, the latter the world’s largest trafficking organisation led by the sadistic and ruthless Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, who is said to be responsible for more than 100,000 deaths in Mexico’s drug wars.
Viafara is alleged to be part of a network dedicated to shipping cocaine to the US and Central America from the Pacific, with extradition process 55416 getting underway on June 11, as reported at Marca.
The midfielder’s role specifically, according to Colombian national police general Oscar Atehortua, was to co-ordinate the movement of cocaine across the route via airplanes, speedboats and semi-submersibles. Furthermore, it’s alleged Viafara oversaw payment to gang members and watchmen along the route and met with key Sinaloa cartel bosses.
‘This person,’ general Atehortua said of Viafara,’ met with members of the Sinaloa cartel sporadically, in order to co-ordinate the exits of cocaine through speedboats to Central America and the United States.’
On Monday, a report emerged in Colombian newspaper El Espectador stating photos had been shared with the man who scored a single Pompey goal showing several packages of cocaine emblazoned with an HK-17 moniker, with a seizure in the US having the same marks.
Alleged key player Pablo Medina aka Don Jose shared that photo, with another figure, Primitivo Oliveros, alleged to have made calls to Viafara over an advanced payment for a cargo. Viafara is said to have used the same phone to give media interviews.
Since being arrested, Viafara has been housed in pavilion 12 of the notorious La Picota prison in Bogotá, where two directors have been arrested on corruption charges in the past year.
The former Colombian international, for his part, maintains he’s not guilty along with his family and is said to be supportive of the extradition put in place by the Court of the Eastern District of Texas.
‘I am innocent, I am a friend of the whole world,’ Viafara said as pictures of him being flanked by police officers went around the world after his arrest.
It’s a monumental fall from grace in his home country, however, for the former Colombia international and Copa Libertadores winner, who has also previously been shot after a robbery in Medellin - Colombia’s cocaine capital.
It’s certainly tough to align the reports coming out of South America with the quiet and unassuming character who spent six unspectacular months at Pompey, after being brought in by Alain Perrin.
Viafara was given a huge fanfare on his arrival by Milan Mandaric, who insisted in his own inimitable and understated fashion: ‘I believe Jhon Viafara will be a superstar in the Premiership.’
The reality was rather different as he struggled to adapt as Perrin’s side laboured in the top flight. Viafara scored a single goal at Manchester City before being loaned to Spanish side Real Sociedad, and eventually moving to Southampton for a fee of around £750,000 the following August.
Viafara now awaits his fate, but there is a poignancy to the words of the quiet man from a small village in the north of Colombia after sealing his ‘dream’ move to Pompey 14 years ago.
‘When I look at where I come from and where I am now,’ Viafara said, ‘I believe that I am a winner.’
We’ll soon know how that quote stands up and whether he takes a prime position in a gruesome gallery of figures associated with Pompey’s recent history.