BOCHUM, Germany (AFP) - In what one UEFA official called European football's worst ever match-fixing scandal, investigators said Friday criminals may have netted 10 million euros rigging 200 games in nine countries.
A 200-strong band operating across Europe is suspected of swaying matches in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Austria, prosecutors in Germany said.
They include three Champions League ties, 12 matches in the Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup, one qualifying game for the under-21 European championship and four from the German second division.
All the games took place this season.
UEFA said it would give details of the matches later, but the 15 at European level involved early qualifying round games, while the rest were under the jurisdictions of national football associations.
It said that the list included 40 matches that UEFA had previously said were under suspicion.
By bribing players, coaches, referees and officials to influence matches, the criminals are then believed to have earned millions by placing huge bets on the games with bookmakers in Europe and Asia, primarily in China.
"Without doubt this is the biggest scam there has ever been in European football," UEFA's match-fixing specialist Peter Limacher said in Germany, where the probe was organised.
"We are deeply shocked by the scale of match-fixing through international gangs. We now have to do everything possible to ensure that referees, players and officials implicated face justice," Limacher told reporters.
Around 300 police carried out around 50 raids on Thursday in Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Austria, arresting 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland. More than a million euros in cash and property were seized.
"But this is just the tip of the iceberg," investigating prosecutor Andreas Bachmann said.
Two of those arrested in Thursday included two Croatian brothers living in Berlin, Ante and Milan Sapina, who were at the centre of a match-fixing scandal that rocked Germany in 2004, newspapers said.
"UEFA will be demanding the harshest of sanctions before the competent courts for any individuals, clubs or officials who are implicated in this malpractice, be it under state or sports jurisdiction," UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
Investigators are also looking at 32 matches in Germany, including two in the second division, three in the third, 23 games in regional leagues and two under-19 clashes.
Elsewhere, 29 matches in Turkey from the first division downwards, 14 in Croatia's first division, 13 in Hungary's first division, eight in Bosnia-Hercegovina's top flight and 11 in Austria's first and second leagues.
In Slovenia, seven games in the first division have raised suspicions, as have 22 league games in the Swiss second division and six friendlies, plus 17 in Belgium's second division, prosecutors said.
They warned that the list could get longer.
The 2004 German scandal saw referee Robert Hoyzer sentenced to two years and five months behind bars after admitting receiving almost 70,000 euros (104,000 dollars) and a plasma television from a Croatian mafia ring to throw games.
One of the worst European match-fixing scandal to date was the Calciopoli affair in 2006 involving five Serie A clubs, referees and high-ranked Italian football federation (FIGC) officials.
It resulted in heavy punishments for top-flight clubs including Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina, with Juventus stripped of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 league titles.
In 2005, Brazilian referee Edilson Pereira de Carvalho was banned for life after admitting match fixing. It culminated in the results of 11 league matches he had officiated being cancelled.
In 1999, four men were jailed for 12 years for plotting to sabotage an English Premiership match between Charlton and Liverpool in a multi-million pound Far Eastern betting scam by tampering with stadium floodlights.
|Rooney: United must win a trophy this season|
|Pellegrini ready to welcome back stars for Spurs showdown|
|Pulis backs up Berahino overweight claims|
|Pochettino hoping Wimmer can solve Aguero woes|
|Suarez: I left Liverpool for Champions League glory|
|Arsenal´s season a ´disaster´ without Premier League title - Ranieri|
|Modric: Ancelotti is my favourite Madrid manager|
|Klopp: Benteke must help himself|
|Hernandez sidelined for Europa League tie|
|Wenger: Arsenal will attack Leicester|
|Mahrez: Pearson deserves credit too|
|Benfica 1 Porto 2: Herrera, Aboubakar crown memorable derby comeback|
|Van Gaal trusts United over Mourinho rumours|
|Suarez explains tweaks behind ´MSN´ success at Barca|
|Burton Albion 1 Chesterfield 0: Butcher seals win for League One leaders|
|Carpi 1 Roma 3: Dzeko ends drought as Spalletti´s men win again|
|Sporting Gijon 2 Rayo Vallecano 2: La Liga strugglers play out pulsating draw|
|Dundee 2 St Johnstone 0: Hemmings at the double for Hartley´s men|
|Nagatomo: I turned down United move|
|Mainz 2 Schalke 1: Baumgartlinger fires Europa League charge|
|Rennes 1 Angers 0: Injury-time own goal moves hosts up to fifth|
|Tuchel prepared for tough Gundogan talks|
|Ex-Premier League star Bent handed suspended sentence|
|Ajax to take action over Vermeer effigy|
|Damiani: Pogba or Higuain to settle Juventus v Napoli|
|Getafe v Atletico Madrid: Gabi urges Torres to kick on after landmark goal|
|Manchester City v Tottenham: Pellegrini, Pochettino play down pivotal clash|
|Fiorentina v Inter: Icardi remains confident of Champions League qualification|
|Van Gaal: The real fans are right behind Depay|
|Barcelona v Celta Vigo: Rakitic only has eyes for trophies amid record-breaking run|
|FA must protect teams playing in Europe - Pellegrini|
|Varane is Madrid´s future - Zidane shuts down Manchester United rumours|
|Grayson: Vardy sums up Leicester brilliance - and Brad Pitt should play him on screen|
|Arsenal v Leicester City: Wenger out to disappoint football romantics on Valentine´s Day|
|Blanc: No guarantees despite new PSG deal|
|The pressure is on the others - Ranieri seeks to outfox title rivals|
|AC Milan v Genoa: Antonelli desperate to end losing streak|
|New Everton deal until 2019 for Oviedo|
|Lampard wants new deal for ´Mr Chelsea´ Terry|
|´Mini-Mourinho´ Nagelsmann demands respect in Hoffenheim survival fight|
|Pochettino not interested in Leicester v Arsenal result|
|Augsburg v Bayern Munich: Fearless Guardiola expects victory|
|Valcke banned for 12 years by FIFA|
|Hiddink plays down effect of Zouma injury on Terry future|
|Premier League ticket price debate: Wenger, Klopp, Hiddink and fellow managers have their say|
|Zidane won´t rush Bale´s Real return|
|Van Gaal dismisses questions over Manchester United future|
|Costa suffers broken nose in training|
|Kompany fit for crunch Spurs clash|
|Brisbane Roar 2 Newcastle Jets 2: Alivodic own goal rescues point for A-League leaders|
|Xavi excited by prospect of Guardiola, Mourinho duel|
|Robben still key for Bayern - Guardiola|
|Messi ends wait for La Liga award|
|Aston Villa v Liverpool: Hosts have ´no chance´ unless Norwich lessons are learned, warns Garde|
|Besic and Oviedo in line for new Everton deals|
|Khedira could return against Napoli|
|Gradel stepping up Bournemouth comeback|
|Guardiola: No problem with Ancelotti´s Munich visit|
|´Napoli are not all about Higuain´ - Allegri|
|Klopp: Coutinho free-kick one of the smartest in history|
|Dybala and Verratti have Barcelona DNA - Xavi|
|Wenger unworried by Giroud goal drought|
|Mahrez is ´dominating´ the Premier League - Wenger|
|Icardi: I would turn down Manchester United|
|Messi and Neymar inspiring Lukaku to silence the critics|
|Van Gaal impressed by ´excellent´ Giggs|
|Cannavaro sacked by Al-Nassr|
|Van Gaal proud of United work|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Independiente del Valle reach group stage|
|Mauro: Allegri should have Chelsea talks|
|Payet can become West Ham great - Sullivan|
|Rooney a target for Chinese clubs, says Eriksson|
|Klopp expects Liverpool´s Premier League drought to continue|
|Van Gaal: Woodward would tell me if he was speaking to Mourinho|
|Emery urges against Camp Nou final|
|Sagna: Man City still title favourites|
|Trelissac 0 Marseille 2: Fletcher opens account to seal quarter-final spot|
|Arsenal set for US pre-season fixtures|
|Lazio 5 Verona 2: Basement boys routed at Stadio Olimpico|
|Celta Vigo 2 Sevilla 2 (2-6 agg): Aspas brace in vain as Emery´s men reach final|
|Juventus v Napoli: Higuain confident he can handle pressure|
|Tan to write off Cardiff debts|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Lille: Champions seek to celebrate Blanc extension with win|
|Crystal Palace v Watford: Pardew hopes Adebayor can turn season around|
|Allardyce urges Van Gaal to discover Manchester United´s intentions|
|Sunderland terminate Johnson´s contract|
|Payet signs new West Ham contract|
|Oscar: I have no reason to leave Chelsea|
|Chelsea v Newcastle United: Oscar reflects on quest for form at Stamford Bridge|
|Pogba must improve mentality to become like Platini and Zidane - Mauro|
|AFC Bournemouth v Stoke City: Hughes praises Howe´s hard workers|
|Swansea City v Southampton: Koeman needs Wanyama to learn|
|Robinho returns to Brazil with Atletico Mineiro|
|Adidas terminates boot deal with Johnson|
|Sunderland consider Eboue deal|
|Sunderland v Manchester United: Carrick lauds Martial form ahead of key clash|
|Bundesliga record-breaker Nagelsmann replaces Stevens at Hoffenheim|
|Robben: No Manchester City move discussions with Guardiola|
|Borussia Dortmund v Hannover: Milosevic staying positive amid relegation fight|
|Norwich City v West Ham: Bilic eyes chance to build momentum|
|United poised for more heavy spending after record revenue|
|Pardew, Palace ´jealous´ of Leicester´s romantic title bid|
|Everton v West Brom: Martinez wants Goodison fortress|
|Allardyce confirms Johnson omission|
|Real Madrid not on Spalletti´s mind|
|Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao: Valverde´s men out to improve shocking Bernabeu record|
|Angry Afobe hits back at Wolves after ´not trying´ accusations|
|Bojan agrees Stoke extension|
|Celina demanded international game-time - Norwegian FA|
|Manchester United profits surge after Champions League return|
|Prince Ali: FIFA is in crisis and needs to change|
|Aguero eyes further goal joy against Spurs|
|Deeney the perfect partner for Vardy and Kane with England, says Flores|
|Sirigu wanted PSG exit|
|Bordeaux suspend Prior and Sane|
|Saul in no rush to leave Atletico|
|Bilic: West Ham close to Payet deal|
|Martinez rubbishes Jagielka exit talk|
|Tomkins to miss five weeks with calf injury|
|Sunderland to drop Johnson for United match|
|Martinez: Title Leicester´s to lose|
|Xhaka tempted by Premier League switch|
|Carragher proud of Liverpool ticket-price U-turn|
|Mourinho and United a perfect match - McCarthy|
|Blanc extends PSG contract|
|Pulis heaps praise on Peterborough|
|Toranzo did not lose toes - Huracan president|
|Willian expects Terry to depart Chelsea|
|Mexico 2 Senegal 0: Duenas, Pizarro inspire win|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Sao Paulo, Racing qualify for group stages|
|Liverpool should be transparent with Sturridge injuries - Owen|
|FFA hands Wanderers fine and suspended points deduction|
|Luis Enrique: I had to give my voice a rest|
|Silva: I was not kicked off Marseille team bus|
|Blanc could sign PSG renewal by end of week|
|PSG drawn against familiar foes Saint-Etienne in Coupe de France|
|Neville confident Valencia fans will be back|
|Guardiola praises beaten Bochum|
|Coupe de France Review: Ibrahimovic sends PSG through, Nantes win thriller|
|I love penalties - West Brom´s shootout hero Foster|
|Ross County 0 Hearts 3: Dauda dazzles in valuable victory|
|Bayern Munich avoid Borussia Dortmund in DFB-Pokal semi-finals|