The full extent of a Europe-wide soccer match-fixing scandal was made public on Friday, when European soccer officials and German public prosecutors announced that more than 200 people were under investigation over a bribery racket that fixed or tried to fix around 200 matches across Europe and spanned nine domestic leagues, as well as the Champions League and new Europa League.
If confirmed, the revelations would make this betting and match-fixing scandal one of the largest ever uncovered in European sporting history.
Prosecutors from the German city of Bochum told a press conference Friday that the probe was looking into matches played in the top-flight leagues of Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Turkey, as well as the second divisions in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.
In Germany, four matches in the second division and three in the third division were among those suspected of being manipulated through bribery.
At least three games in the European Champions League - the most prestigious international club competition at the European level - and 12 matches in the Europa League are also under investigation for manipulation.
Governing body "shocked"
UEFA spokesperson Peter Limacher said he was pleased with the efficiency of the international investigation, but was nonetheless dismayed at the revelations.
"On the other hand we at UEFA are deeply shocked by the extent of the orchestrated manipulation carried out by international gangs," he told the press conference.
On Thursday, German authorities carried out raids in Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Austria, arresting 15 in Germany and two in Switzerland.
Those detained are suspected of using cash to bribe players, coaches, referees and officials at the highest levels of European soccer with the aim of profiting from fixed match results through betting syndicates in Europe and Asia.
Friedhelm Althans of the Bochum police said police had seized extensive evidence and around one million euros ($1.5 million). He put the volume of the fraud at 10 million euros but said this was "the tip of the iceberg."
Link to the past
German daily Berliner Morgenpost reported that the central figures in the match-fixing ring were believed to be based in the German capital Berlin, and were suspected of involvement in a prior soccer manipulation scandal centered on former German referee Robert Hoyzer.
In 2005 German soccer was engulfed in scandal when it was revealed that Hoyzer had placed a bet on a German Cup game he was to referee between Bundesliga club Hamburg SV and regional team Paderborn.
Hoyzer made several questionable refereeing decisions during the match, including awarding two penalties which eventually helped Paderborn reverse a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2.
Hoyzer later admitted to the match-fixing allegations and was later connected with Croatian organized crime syndicates. Hoyzer was sentenced to around two and a half years in prison and banned from soccer as a result.
Editor: Kyle James