By Associated Press
Last Updated: 11/10/18 4:58pm
Belgian authorities charged five people on Thursday in relation to a massive financial fraud and match-fixing probe in football.
Four were charged with belonging to a criminal organisation and corruption, while a fifth person was charged with money laundering.
Prosecutors said match-fixing allegations centred on the relegation battle from the top division last season and did not involve a major club.
Financial fraud centred on two agents who had contacts with many of the leading clubs – including Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liege. Accusations centre on tax evasion and illegal personal enrichment.
The prosecutor’s office used only the initials of those charged.
Ivan Leko, the coach of Belgian domestic champions Club Brugge, was speaking to investigators along with agents Mogi Bayat and Dejan Veljkovic on Thursday.
Two top referees were slated to be interrogated later in the biggest sports scandal in Belgium in decades.
The year-long probe centres on suspect financial operations by sports agents on transfers – including tax evasion, money laundering and private corruption.
During the probe, investigators said they also found indications of match-fixing during last season’s relegation battle.
Belgium defender Vincent Kompany said he was not surprised by the developments because the sector has too long been veiled in secrecy instead of openness.
“The thing I don’t get is that, internationally, it has not yet become totally transparent,” Kompany said.
The top-flight Jupiler Pro League, in which none of Belgium’s World Cup stars play, has over the years become a prime market for cheap foreign talent.
Claims of human trafficking over the years have increased and the investigation shows Belgian football is unhealthy, Kompany claims.
“If you talk about the soccer sector, you cannot be surprised,” he added. “The link with human trafficking, the drug trade and prostitution, where a lot of money goes around, is very close.”
The federal prosecutor’s office announced it would give more details about fraud and match-fixing allegations later on Thursday.
The scandal was revealed publicly on Wednesday when authorities carried out 57 police raids in Belgium and around Europe.
In all, 44 raids were staged in Belgium and 13 more in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.