Suspicions and investigations into fake matches in the lower categories of Belgian football had in recent years become an almost recurrent news. But the scandal has jumped this Wednesday to the category of honor with a macrorredada that has uncovered a vast network of illegal commissions in the transfer market in which the main clubs in Belgium could be involved.
The investigation has also found indications of manipulation in the results of matches during the 2017-2018 season, a suspicion that jeopardizes the credibility of one of the main European leagues in a country whose selection stood out among the most prominent in the recent World Cup. The spectacular operation has caused an earthquake in public opinion, given the tremendous scope of the alleged fraud and the popularity of the teams involved.
Up to 184 Belgian police officers have registered at the headquarters of the main first division teams, from Bruges to Anderlecht, Standard Liege or Genk. In the operation have been arrested "numerous people" as reported by the Belgian prosecutor. And the records have been extended to the private homes of managers of clubs, agents, arbitrators and journalists, as well as those of a lawyer, an accountant and a coach.
The macrorredada has also traced the tentacles of the alleged fraud in six European countries (France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia) where, under the coordination of Eurojust, 13 registers have been carried out.
Among the detainees in Belgium is the Croatian football coach Iván Leko, who leads FC Brujas in the Belgian first division. Shortly before the operation was known, the prosecution confirmed the arrest of Mogi Bayat, a well-known player agent. There has also been the arrest of the former Anderlecht sports director, Herman Van Holsbeeck.
The investigation, as explained by the prosecutor's office, began in early 2017 following a report by the Sports Frauds Unit of the Federal Police. The document brought to light indications of suspicious financial transactions in the first division of Belgian football.
The authorities detected that the agents of certain players hid certain fees charged in relation to the transfer of players and their salaries, as well as in the compensation of coaches. The prosecutor's office states that "the judicial investigation pertains to activities carried out within the framework of a criminal organization, money laundering and private corruption."
The Belgian fans had barely recovered from the stupor caused this summer by the arrest, in a case unrelated to the raid today, Stéphane Pawuels, one of the main presenters of sports television in the country, accused of complicity in a dark matter of robbery with violence.
The swell seemed forgotten. But Wednesday's macro-run throws a much more dangerous shadow over a league that has featured great European football figures, such as Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea) or Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).