Mix Diskerud, the U.S. national team midfielder, is reportedly close to signing for Club Tijuana of Mexico’s Liga MX, where he’d join fellow U.S. internationals Joe Corona and Greg Garza. [Update: ESPN spoke with Diskerud. He said he will not be signing with a Mexican team.] Diskerud’s contract with his current club, Norway’s Rosenborg, is over at the end of the month, and he’s free to sign wherever he wants. If he ends up south of the border, it’d be an interesting move for the Norwegian-American. Over the last couple of years, he’s taken a hard look at MLS and balked twice. The most recent round of negotiations broke down when his dad Paul, who is also his agent, demanded a last-second pay hike. One wonders what kind of money the Xolos are throwing at Diskerud. It must be a pretty good deal. As MLS discovered, Paul is no novice negotiator, and he’s certainly not afraid to squeeze people out of a couple bucks.
In Norway, Paul Diskerud is under investigation by the Finanstilsynet (The Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway) under penal code §295, which forbids usury. Usury is fancy speak for loan sharking. Diskerud is alleged to be one of Norways biggest loan sharks, accused of screwing people out of millions of dollars through illegal, unregulated loans that carry interest rates as high as 133 percent.
The Finanstilsynet investigation comes in the wake of a bombshell, 8,000-word report published in November by Norwegian journalists Knut Gjernes and Gøran Skaalmo in the financial magazine Dagens Næringsliv. (Dagens Næringsliv was one of the organizations that published Wikileaks documents in 2010.)
As described by Gjernes and Skaalmo, Diskerud’s alleged loan sharking works in a number of different ways, but his modus operandi goes something like this: somebody needs quick money, to pay for their home, say, or to save their business—it could be anything. But they need it now, faster than they can get it from a bank, what with all the paperwork and bureaucracy. Diskerud is reportedly the kind of dude who can produce lots of money, millions of dollars, fast. Because he’s not a licensed lender in Norway, the loan deals aren’t classic repayment schemes; they’re hidden behind fake transactions or intermediaries—and they’re illegal. In some cases, he’s accused of taking houses for collateral; in others, he’s accepted valuable works of art or company stock. Often, the collateral is “purchased” at low valuation with an agreement to buy it back later at a much higher price.
That’s what happened to Stein Enqvist, who claims he sold his home to Diskerud for seven million Kroner in 2005 (about $1.08 million in 2005 Dollars) with an agreement to repurchase it in two years for 9.4 million (about $1.46 million 2005 Dollars). In the meantime, Enqvist was allowed to continue living on the property. But when Enqvist got the money together to repay the loan, Diskerud—who has no registered, fixed address in Norway—was nowhere to be found. In January, 2008, bailiffs showed up at Enqvist’s door and evicted him. The Dagens Næringsliv report is full of such allegations.
Interestingly, Mix and his American mother aren’t Paul’s only connection to the United States. His main company, Jonatan, was linked through letterhead to the Desert Troon Group, a property development company formed and chaired by Mix’s grandfather, the real estate mogul Tore Christian Diskerud, and based in Phoenix, Arizona. (In a response to the Dagens Næringsliv story, Tore’s lawyers disputed any link between Jonatan and the Desert Troon Group.) Some of Paul’s funny loans in Norway were apparently carried out in Tore’s name.
Skaalmo, one of the two journalists responsible for the bombshell report, told VICE Sports by phone that, in Norway, the story received “a tremendous public response.” Most loan sharks are “criminals, muscle boys,” he said, “but [Paul Diskerud] stood out, because he came from a wealthy background. No criminal record that we know of.” To Skaalmo’s knowledge, Diskerud has never been successfully sued for his shady business dealings.
In Tijuana, Mix would likely be a star, a great help to his teammates on the field. But wherever he ends up, you can bet he’ll get a favorable deal. When it comes to negotiating contracts, the Diskeruds do not fuck around.