Police in Germany and abroad have begun making arrests and conducted searches on suspicion of an international illegal betting ring allegedly fixing matches in top European leagues.
According to press reports, 15 people were arrested in at least six European countries, with around 100 suspects in total, with matches in Turkey the main focus of investigation.
“There were many searches and arrests made in the whole of the state [of Germany] and abroad,” the state prosecutor’s office in the city of Bochum said in a statement.
“The accused are suspected of offering financial inducements to players, coaches, referees and officials from high-ranking European football leagues to manipulate the results of games.
“As a result of the investigations, which were supported by officials from UEFA, several searches and arrests took place today throughout Germany and abroad.”
The Berliner Morgenpost cited one unnamed top investigator as saying the probe could result in “one of the biggest scandals in the history of professional football.
“This earthquake will shake the credibility of the sport for a long time,” the paper quoted the investigator as saying.
German football federation spokesman Harald Stenger told reporters: “As far as the DFB knows, no German matches are affected.”
But according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung one of the games being scrutinised was a friendly between German side SSV Ulm against Fenerbahce Istanbul in July. The Turkish side won 5-0, and investigators suspect that “certain currently unidentified SSV Ulm players” received more than 10,000 euros to throw the game, the paper said.
Two of those arrested in Thursday included two Croatian brothers living in Berlin, Ante and Milan Sapina, who were at the centre of a match-fixing scandal that rocked Germany in 2005, newspapers said.
That scandal involved Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer, who rigged matches as part of an international illegal betting gang and was sentenced to two years and five months in prison.