A FAMOUS sporting family has been “shamed” for stealing from a charity set up for African children.

Ex-footballers Efe Sodje, 46, and Stephen Sodje, 43, and ex-rugby player Bright Sodje, 52, have been convicted of fraud and jailed for siphoning off money from their family charity, the Sodje Sports Foundation (SSF).

Efe Sodje played 37 times for Southend United and represented Nigeria against England in the 2002 World Cup.

The fraud trial had heard how the Sodjes set up their charity in 2009 to help provide sporting facilities to youngsters in Nigeria.

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

Money meant for a children’s hospital was also siphoned off.

The brothers were convicted in 2017 but the case can only now be reported following a separate money laundering trial involving Sam Sodje for which he was cleared.

Judge Michael Topolski QC told the defendants: “You have brought shame upon yourselves and your family.”

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.

The judge said: “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.

He said “at least £63,000 has been shown to have been received by the fund”, but added it was important to note that did not include cash donations, and the defendants “went out of their way” to ensure that proper records were not kept.
Efe Sodje, of Cheadle, Greater Manchester, was cleared of money laundering last year.

Emmanuel Ehikhamen, 53, of south-east London, and Andrew Oruma, 50, of Bexley, south London, were convicted.

It is not clear how much went to the charity.