Belgian authorities have carried out a series of raids and arrests at football clubs across the country linked to investigations into financial fraud and possibly match-fixing.
The federal prosecutor’s office said 44 raids were being held in Belgium and 13 more in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.
The prosecutor’s statement said a year-long investigation shows evidence of “suspect financial operations” by sports agents and indications “of possible influencing of games” over the last season.
“Match-fixing undermines the integrity of sports. The Justice Department is working for a fair sport,” justice minister Koen Geens said.
The inquiry comes only three months after Belgium’s national team reached the World Cup semi-finals and beat England to finish third at the tournament in Russia.
According to local media, Belgium’s best known agent, the Brugge coach Ivan Leko and a former Anderlecht club official were among those being questioned.
“Agents, referees, a former lawyer, an accounting office, jewellers, journalists” were among those hit by the raids, authorities said without specifying names.
The investigation centres on “activities relating to a criminal organisation, money laundering and private corruption,” the prosecutor’s office said.
The raids involved 184 police officials in Belgium and 36 in the other countries.
The statement said some football agents, independent from one another, “would have schemed to hide” transfer commissions, payments of players and coaches, and other payments from the Belgian authorities, causing tax losses.
It was during the investigation, the prosecutor’s office said, that indications appeared that there may have been match-fixing during the 2017-18 season.