Ukrainian minister says 66% of top clubs involved in criminal match-fixing gangs

By Mark Baber

May 23 – Ukraine’s under-fire Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, has accused 35 of the nation’s top football clubs of involvement in massive match-fixing operations which involved five criminal gangs, at least 320 people and up to $5 million a year in illegal earnings.

Writing on Facebook, Avakov claimed: “Club presidents, former and current players, referees, trainers, and commercial organizations were involved.”

According to Avakov, the perpetrators placed bets on Ukrainian football matches in which the result had been fixed and “any methods were used to get the ‘right’ score in the match – from the bribing of players, referees, club owners, to intimidation and threats. The amount of ‘reward’ for the desired result – a victory or a draw – ranged from 30,000 ($1,150) to 100,000 hryvnias ($3,840).”

Serhiy Knyazev, the head of the National Police of Ukraine, said: “We have been collecting and documenting the proof for over a year.”

However, Ukrainian Deputy Police Chief Ihor Kupranets told reporters that, despite raids being made on Tuesday, nobody had been arrested and it was up to prosecutors whether charges would be brought against the suspects.

Avakov’s allegations come as Kiev prepares to host Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Ukrainian Football Federation head Andriy Pavelko put a positive spin on the news, declaring that: “Today is a historic day for Ukrainian football. This is the start of a systemic clean-up of Ukrainian football from a problem that was rooted in it for years.”

Avakov, probably Ukraine’s most powerful figure after President Poroshenko, has been under fire for alleged corruption and was discovered to have purchased a $900,000, 26-room villa on the Mediterranean Sea coast in Italy using an Italian company, whilst declaring income to Ukrainian tax authorities of just $39,000 in 2017.

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