Brussels - Police
raids across Europe on Wednesday sent shockwaves through Belgium's top football
league as prosecutors targeted the country's biggest clubs over alleged
fraudulent transfers and match-fixing.
A total of 220 police
officers carried out 44 house searches across Belgium and in France, Luxembourg,
Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, Belgian prosecutors said.
"A great number
of persons have been deprived of their liberty and taken in for a thorough
interrogation," said a statement from investigators.
The arrests focused on
well-known football agent Mogi Bayat, the former manager of Sporting Charleroi,
who was arrested in his home on suspected links to crooked transfer deals.
Club Brugge coach Ivan
Leko, whose team is playing in the Champions League this season, was also
arrested on Wednesday, a source close to the investigation said.
The headquarters of
Club Brugge, Standard Liege, Anderlecht and KRC Genk, the current leader of the
Belgian Premier League, were searched in the operation, the source added.
At Standard Liege,
according to a report in the daily Le Soir, police seized contracts involving
players Obbi Oulare, Michel Preudhomme and Dino Arslanagic that were all linked
Club Brugge and
Anderlecht said they will fully cooperate with the investigation.
"Club Brugge has
nothing to hide," chairman Bart Verhaeghe told the daily De Morgen.
its full cooperation and makes no further comments", said spokesman David
The house searches
outside Belgium were mainly connected to the suspect transfer schemes, said
Cypriot police told
AFP Wednesday they arrested a 52-year-old foreigner on a European warrant in
connection with the case.
The offences were
mainly committed in Belgium, but also in Cyprus and other European countries
between 2012 and 2018, said Cypriot police.
Legal procedures are
now underway to extradite the man to Belgium and evidence collected will also
be handed over to the Belgian authorities.
match-fixing emerged during the fraud investigation, with a focus put on
matches played in the 2017-18 season, prosecutors said.
started in late 2017 because of a report drawn up by the Sports Fraud Cell.
That entity had
received a complaint from Westerlo football club, which currently plays in
Belgium's lower division 1B, following a Kortrijk-Mouscron match in March 2017,
club president Herman Wynants told AFP.
Mouscron won the match
and remained in the top league, relegating Westerlo.
According to media
reports, Bayat had several players from Kortrijk and Mouscron in his client
portfolio with another match involving Mouscron and Qatar-owned Eupen also
"I am asking for
full transparency and cooperation from the football world to this
investigation," said Philippe Muyters, sports minister from Belgium's
Dutch-speaking Flemish region.
"The athletes and
especially the numerous supporters are entitled to a fair sport," he said.
Number one in world
Bayat and his brother
Mehdi are both major players in the Belgian football scene, an ascent that
began when their uncle bought the Charleroi football club in 2000, local
squad top the FIFA rankings and finished third at this year's World Cup in
Russia, but its national league is considered second-tier.
Top English Premier
League star Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City rose to prominence at Genk,
while Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku was a young star at Anderlecht.