Police have detained nine suspects as part of an investigation into alleged fraud and match-fixing in Belgian football. The coach of Belgian champions Club Brugge has been released after being questioned.
Nineteen suspects are facing criminal charges in connection with an investigation into alleged fraud and match fixing in Belgian football, the federal prosecutor's office in Brussels confirmed on Friday. These were among 29 people who were originally detained, nine of whom remain in custody. Five have been released on conditions, while five others were released after questioning by the investigating judge, although the charges against them still stand.
The prosecutor's office said investigators had reason to suspect that there had been "possible influencing of at least two matches in the battle to avoid relegation to a lower division at the end of the 2017-18" – for the benefit of KV Mechelen, who were relegated anyway.
Club Brugge back coach Leko
Among those released after being questioned is Ivan Leko, the coach of Club Brugge, who had been detained in Wednesday's raids.
The Belgian champions, who were unlucky not to get a draw at home to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last month, offered Leko their full backing in a statement posted on their website late on Thursday. The club said that Leko, a former Croatia international, was cooperating in the investigation into an alleged offence dating back to 2015.
The club "sees no reason why it should end its relationship of trust with Ivan Leko, both as a coach and as an individual," the statement said, adding that he would lead Friday's training session.
Dozens of premises raided
On Wednesday, investigators had searched dozens of premises across Belgium including the homes of "six members of the board of several football clubs, four brokers in the football players market (agents), two referees, a former lawyer, an accountancy bureau, two jewelers, two journalists, a trainer and some possible accomplices". More arrests were made on Thursday night.
According to the statement, among those detained is powerful player agent Mogi Bayat, who has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy. Also in custody are fellow player agents Dejan Veljkovic and Karim Mejjati.
Two referees suspended
Referee Bart Vertenten has been arrested and charged with conspiracy, while former Anderlecht club lawyer Laurent Denis is facing charges of conspiracy and money laundering.
Another referee, Sebastien Delferiere, was charged but was immediately released on parole on Thursday. Both of the referees have been suspected by the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB).
The scandal has led Belgium's second division, the Pro League, to postpone all of this weekend's matches. The top flight Jupiler League is not in action due to the international break.
pfd/js (AFP, dpa)