Spanish police arrest several players involved in alleged match-fixing

Suspected of fixing matches, they are accused of belonging to a criminal gang, corruption and money laundering, Spanish media reported.

Spanish National Police have commenced an investigation into alleged match-fixing.   -  Getty Images

Spanish police were carrying out an operation on Tuesday against several footballers, ex-players and club executives accused of fixing matches in the first and second divisions, a source close to the case said.

The source, who refused to be named, said that matches were allegedly fixed in the first and second divisions during this season and the 2017-2018 one.

Among these were several games played by the Real Valladolid, a club majority-owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo since September.

Sources close to the case named several players involved to AFP.

They include Raul Bravo, a former Real Madrid player, Borja Fernandez who played for first division Real Valladolid and Indian Super League club ATK, Carlos Aranda, a retired player who appeared for a string of Spanish clubs, Samuel Saiz, a Leeds player loaned Getafe this season, and Inigo Lopez Montana, who played for Extremadura and La Coruna in the second division this season.

The president of SD Huesca, another football club that climbed into first division this season before being relegated again, was also targeted.

There have been several detentions but it is unclear who exactly was being held as the operation was continuing late morning. When contacted by AFP, police confirmed an operation was underway but refused to give further details.

Those at Huesca who have been detained “are suspected of having taken part in match-fixing when they were in second division,” the source said.

The suspects are accused of belonging to a criminal gang, corruption and money laundering, the source added.

 

- Corruption in sport -

La Liga president Javier Tebas told sports daily Marca that the operation had originated from a complaint made by Spain's top football division.

He was quoted as saying that La Liga had been investigating this for over a year.

“It really hurts, because it affects a club I love, but the most important thing is to end corruption in football,” Tebas, who was president of Huesca in the 1990s, said.

Match-fixing has been a constant issue in Spanish football. In February 2018, at least 24 people were arrested nationwide in an operation into alleged match-fixing in Spain's lower leagues.

The ring was accused of using players to force situations such as corners or penalties in games in the Second Division B and Third Division, the third and fourth tiers of Spanish football. They would then make bets on these situations. The conspirators under investigation had connections with China, where the bets were placed.

Match fixing has hit other sports like tennis. In January, Spanish police dismantled a gang that allegedly rigged professional tennis matches, detaining 15 people and probing dozens of others including a player who competed in last year's US Open.

The gang allegedly bribed tennis players to fix matches in ITF Futures and Challenger tournaments, the lower levels of the professional game where younger players start out before reaching the ATP and WTA Tours.

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