BRUSSELS (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Belgium are planning to charge 57 people including soccer coaches, referees and top officials at some of the country's most prestigious clubs in relation to a massive financial fraud and match-fixing probe into soccer, according to media reports and the soccer federation.
The prosecutor's office declined to comment on the reports published on Friday by RTBF broadcaster and Le Soir newspaper, but the Royal Belgian Football Association said it took note of the draft final request of the federal prosecutor’s office.
“This is not a surprise, but our hearts as soccer fans bleed," said Peter Bossaert, the federation CEO. “We will first take the time to analyze the case, but we want to emphasize that we will take our responsibilities.”
The three-year-long investigation centered on suspect financial operations by sports agents on transfers, including tax evasion, money laundering and private corruption.
Quoting unnamed sources close to the investigation, Le Soir newspaper said the accused were suspected of charges including forgery, money laundering, match-fixing and taking part in a criminal organization.
The investigation made crucial progress after player agent Dejan Veljkovic — who had contacts with many of the leading clubs, including Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard Liege — decided to collaborate with judicial authorities.
In October 2018, nine Belgian clubs were raided as well as the homes of six club officials, four agents and two referees. The scandal took the country largely by surprise and immediately put a damper on the upbeat spirit created by Belgium’s third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
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