Belgian police keep nine in custody as second division suspended and investigation deepens

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By Samindra Kunti

October 12 – Nine people remain in police custody in the Belgian corruption and match-fixing investigation following raids across the country on Wednesday. The charges range from criminal organisation to money laundering. Meanwhile all second division matches have been postponed this weekend. 

Agent Dragan Siljanoski, agent Mogi Bayat, Laurent Denis, agent Dejan Veljkovic, Veljkovic’s wife , agent Karim Mejjati, referee Bart Vertenten and KV Mechelen board members Olivier Somers and Thierry Steemans have not been released by Belgian authorities as the scandal rumbles on.

Brugge coach Ivan Leko, originally held by police, has since been released under conditions he remains in the country and available for further questioning.

Leko returned to training on Friday morning after having spent two days in jail. “I have no idea how my reputation as a football coach has suffered, that will have to be seen. Do I want to press charges myself? I have not taken a decision about that yet. One thing is certain, I will fight back. With the support of my family, my girlfriend, my club and the supporters,” he said.

Brugge are Belgium’s defending champions, and sit second in the league this season, a point behind Genk. They also represent the country in the Champions League. Leko’s team lost their first two matches, 0-1 against Borussia Dortmund and 3-1 against Atletico Madrid.

Two matches from last season’s Belgian league have come under police investigation for match-fixing. On March 3, Antwerp defeated relegation rivals Eupen 2-0 courtesy of a penalty that was awarded following a tackle outside the box. On the last match day of the regular season Eupen pulled off a miraculous 4-0 win, with four goals inside the last 20 minutes, to relegate Mechelen on goal difference.

Prosecutors said agent Veljkovic had contacted referee Delferiere, who was not in charge of either match, and offered benefits in return for favours, such as possibly influencing the suspension proceedings against a player.

In 1988, Mechelen, with Michel Preud’Homme, won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, but the club will now face a battle for survival as its main financial backer Olivier Somers remains in detention.

The scandal has rocked Belgian football. Tonight Belgium host Switzerland in the Nations League in their first home match since achieving a best-ever third place at the World Cup, but the game has been overshadowed by the corruption scandal.

On Wednesday Belgian police raided 44 Belgian clubs and residences across the country, while a further 13 searches took place in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. The scope of the investigation may also have ramifications in Serbia. Local tabloid Kurir reported that former striker Mateja Kezman might have been involved in a €30 million money-laundering scheme.

Contact the writer of this story Samindra Kunti at moc.l1718709470labto1718709470ofdlr1718709470owedi1718709470sni@o1718709470fni1718709470