Belgian football investigated for financial fraud and match-fixing – while offices are also raided across Europe
Belgian football has been rocked by a string of police raids linked to an investigation into corruption, money laundering and match-fixing across Europe.
Several swoops were linked to powerful football agent Mogi Bayat, who was arrested in his home over suspected links to crooked transfer deals.
The federal prosecutor's office in Brussels confirmed 44 raids took place in Belgium and 13 more in France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. Referee Sebastien Delferiere, who was due to take charge of Saturday's Nations League game between Georgia and Andorra, was reportedly questioned and stood down from the international fixture.
The raids are part of an investigation started in 2017 into suspicious financial activities in the Jupiler Pro League, Belgium's top division. Champions Club Brugge and the country's two biggest clubs, Anderlecht and Standard Liege, are among those searched. Current league leaders Genk are reportedly another club to have been raided.
Brugge chairman Bart Verhaeghe, told Flemish TV channel VTM Nieuws: "Club Brugge will give full co-operation to the investigation and has nothing to hide."
A statement from Anderlecht read: "The federal police today carried out a search of RSC Anderlecht. The club is co-operating fully with the investigation and will make no further comments."
Standard Liege confirmed they made all requested documents available during a two-hour search of their premises. Lokeren have also said they are co-operating with the investigation after officers spent three-and-a-half hours with the club. Oostende and Second Division club Mechelen have also said they have been visited by officers as part of the probe. Two other clubs, Gent and Kortrijk, have reportedly been searched, but have not commented.
A statement from the federal prosecutor's office read: "The judicial investigation concerns activities within the framework of a criminal organisation, money laundering and private corruption.
"The house searches of this morning are carried out, among other things, at the seat of various football clubs active in the Jupiler Pro League. Various documents and files have been seized.
"Further house searches have been carried out at the residence of committee members of football clubs, brokers in the football players market, referees, a former lawyer, an accountancy bureau, a trainer, journalists and some possible accomplices.
"A great number of persons have been deprived of their liberty and taken in for a thorough interrogation. The investigative judge will later on decide upon who should be held in custody or arrested."
European governing body Uefa is also monitoring the situation.