BRUSSELS – Belgian authorities questioned key agents and a top coach on Thursday as part of a massive financial fraud and match-fixing probe into soccer.
Ivan Leko, the coach of Belgian champion Club Brugge, was speaking to investigators along with agents Mogi Bayat and Dejan Veljkovic. Two top referees were slated to be interrogated later in the biggest sports scandal in Belgian soccer in decades.
The year-long probe centers 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.
Belgian national team veteran 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 told VTM network.
The Belgian league, in which none of its World Cup stars play, has over the years become a prime market to dump cheap foreign, often African, talent. Only a few of them make it to the major leagues. Claims of human trafficking over the years have increased.
The investigation shows Belgian soccer is unhealthy, Kompany said.
“If you talk about the soccer sector, you cannot be surprised,” Kompany said. “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 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.
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