Police raid top football clubs in fraud inquiry

AFP
Police carried out raids in seven countries yesterday as Belgian prosecutors targeted the country's biggest football clubs as part of an investigation into fraud and match-fixing.
AFP

Police carried out raids in seven countries yesterday as Belgian prosecutors targeted the country’s biggest football clubs as part of an investigation into fraud and match-fixing.

A total of 220 police officers carried out 44 house searches across Belgium as well as in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, Belgian prosecutors said.

“A great number of persons have been deprived of their liberty and taken in for a thorough interrogation,” said a statement from investigators.

Federal prosecutors said the arrests included well-known football agent Mogi Bayat, the former manager of Sporting Charleroi, who had been arrested in his home.

Bayat, a 44-year-old Belgian-Iranian, was the main target of the probe, Belgian media reports said, along with another agent and clubs with which they did business. Club Brugge coach Ivan Leko was also arrested on yesterday, while the headquarters of Brugge, Standard Liege, Anderlecht and KRC Genk were searched in the operation.

At Standard Liege police seized contracts involving players Obbi Oulare, Michel Preudhomme and Dino Arslanagic that were all linked to Bayat. Club Brugge and Anderlecht said they will fully cooperate with the investigation.

“Club Brugge has nothing to hide,” chairman Bart Verhaeghe said.

Anderlecht “gives its full cooperation and makes no further comments”, said spokesman David Steegen.

Suspicion of match-fixing emerged during the fraud investigation, with a focus put on matches played in the 2017-18 season. The house searches outside Belgium were mainly connected to the suspect transfer schemes.

“I am asking for full transparency and cooperation from the football world to this investigation,” said Philippe Muyters, sports minister from Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flemish region. “The athletes and especially the numerous supporters are entitled to a fair sport.”

Bayat and his brother Mehdi are both major players in the Belgian football scene, an ascent that began when their uncle bought the Charleroi in 2000.

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