Saturday, November 21, 2009

Match-fixing ring rocks European football

Some 200 football matches in nine European countries including at least three Champions League games may have manipulated in a huge match-fixing scandal, German prosecutors said on Friday.

A criminal band operating across Europe is suspected of swaying games in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria.

"But this is just the tip of the iceberg," investigating prosecutor Andreas Bachmann said.

They include three Champions League ties, 12 matches in the Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup, one qualifying game for the under-21 European championship and four from the German second division.

UEFA said it would give details of the matches later, but the 15 at European level involved early qualifying round games, while the rest were under the jurisdictions of national football associations. Most of the matches are believed to have taken place this season.

By bribing players, coaches, referees and officials to influence matches, the criminals are then believed to have earned millions by placing huge bets on the games with bookmakers in Europe and Asia, primarily in China.

"Without doubt this is the biggest scam there has ever been in European football," UEFA's match-fixing specialist Peter Limacher said in Bochum, where the police investigation was organised.

"We are deeply shocked by the scale of match-fixing through international gangs. We now have to do everything possible to ensure that referees, players and officials implicated face justice," Limacher told reporters.

Around 300 police carried out around 50 raids on Thursday in Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Austria, arresting 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland. More than a €1 million in cash and property were seized.

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