Spanish footballers arrested over La Liga match-fixing claims

PARIS (Agencies): Police investigating an alleged match-fixing ring targeting Spain’s top three football leagues have arrested several people, including current and former players and senior club figures.

The country’s national police force said on Tuesday that its officers had carried out nine searches across Spain in connection with match-fixing, money laundering and criminal gangs.

“We’re expecting to make 11 arrests, among them current and retired first division players, current second division players and club presidents and managers,” the force said in a statement.

“The operation has established that those under investigation made deals with different players to ‘fix’ at least three games in the first, second and third divisions.”

The statement said that the attempt to fix the division three game proved unsuccessful, leading the players involved to make up the losses by throwing another game.

Police added that one second division game had seen a surge in betting, with 14 times the normal amount of money being wagered.

La Liga de Fútbol Profesional (the Professional Football Legaue) said it reported its suspicions over a division two match in May last year between Sociedad Deportiva Huesca and Gimna´stic de Tarragona.

Spanish media reported that those arrested included the former Real Madrid and Spain player Raúl Bravo, Agustín Lasaosa, the Huesca president, and several other people connected with the club.

Huesca’s lawyer, Pedro Camarero, said the mood was calm despite the uncertainty over what may happen. “We’re not worried at the club and have said we’ll cooperate with whatever the investigation needs from us,” he told El País. La Liga hailed the police operation as proof that anti-fixing measures introduced five seasons ago were working.

“We would like to thank the extraordinary job done by the national police to break up this organised group that had been engaged in criminal activities to obtain economic benefits by fixing matches on Spanish soil,” it said in a statement.

The league also said it had filed nine illegal betting complaints to the judicial police during the 2018-2019 season, and drawn 18 non-professional matches to the attention of the General Directorate of Gaming for possible action. The national police said the operation – carried out by Europol, the General Directorate of Gaming and La Liga – had established a familiar pattern.

Matches were selected and efforts made to generate the most money by agreeing combined bets on half-time results or the number of corners taken. Members of the football teams were then approached. “Once the match-fixing had been accepted, payment was made – always in cash and in two instalments; one before the game and once the agreed result had been achieved,” the police statement said.

It added: “This operation reinforces the national police’s commitment to Spanish society and establishes the force as a European pioneer when it comes to investigating the criminal structures that control fixed sporting events.”