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.
|Liverpool´s loss is our gain, says Redknapp on Remy|
|Ferdinand: I would still be at United with Giggs in charge|
|Pepe targets Super Cup glory|
|Martinez prioritising striker signing|
|Perez not looking to leave Benfica|
|Klopp itching to work with full Dortmund squad|
|Mourinho: It feels like Drogba never left|
|FIFA asks for FIGC review into alleged racist remark|
|Hull to review Maguire deal|
|Wenger prepared to gamble on Chambers|
|Atletico agree Griezmann deal|
|Irvine planning further striker addition|
|Campbell: Black professionals scared to talk about racism|
|Mata backs Herrera to star in Premier League|
|Injured Rafael returning to Manchester|
|Schmidt demands more from Leverkusen|
|Copa Libertadores Preview: Defensor Sporting banking on home record|
|Remy´s Liverpool move off, confirms Rodgers|
|Inzaghi demands nastiness from Milan|
|MLS Review: Timbers triumph in Montreal, Dallas thwart Vancouver|
|Jovetic ready to lead City line - Pellegrini|
|Lewandowski impresses Ribery, Alaba|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Three clubs remain perfect, Atletico Nacional get off the mark|
|Rodgers: ´We can score goals´ without Suarez|
|Chilean Primera Division Review: Canales brace powers Universidad Chile|
|Atletico Madrid need penalties to edge past Earthquakes|
|Liga MX Review: Monterrey, America stay perfect|
|Paraguayan Primera Division Review: Capiata set pace|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Cruzeiro win again, Kaka scores|
|Sterling goal sees Liverpool past Olympiacos|
|Peruvian Primera Division Review: Los Caimanes notch maiden win, Inti Gas claim top spot|
|CAF Champions League Review: Zamalek held, Vita Club leave it late|
|Jovetic at the double as Manchester City thrash Milan|
|Monk thrilled by Sigurdsson contribution|
|Lovren signs for Liverpool|
|Mourinho pleased with Olimpija test|
|Vertonghen eager to remain at Spurs|
|Sigurdsson marks Swansea return with a brace|
|Lewandowski, Rode help Bayern retain Telekom Cup|
|Immobile scores and suffers injury in Dortmund win|
|Costa scores on Chelsea debut|
|CAF Confederation Cup Review: Leopards de Dolisie 1 Real Bamako 2|
|Thai Premier League Review: Buriram pull clear, Police edge away from danger|
|Falcao nears Monaco return|
|CSL Review: Harbin Yiteng produce another upset, Evergrande stretch lead|
|Britton and Emnes to miss season-opener|
|Taylor-Fletcher strike sinks Everton|
|J.League Review: Chasing pack close on Urawa Reds, Tokushima Vortis secure rare win|
|Ancelotti expects fresh Bale to be even better|
|Simeone keen on Griezmann|
|Mazzarri refuses to set Inter targets|
|Lazio director targeted by fans|
|Dyche rules out Deeney move|
|Rummenigge: Bayern will never sack Guardiola|
|BREAKING NEWS: Arsenal to bring in Ospina|
|Pochettino quiet on Schneiderlin link|
|Vidic settling into Inter life|
|Van Gaal hints at Zaha United future|
|Di Maria will report for training - Ancelotti|
|Wilshere vows to answer critics|
|Rodgers expecting titles|
|Deila demands Celtic cutting edge|
|Rodgers: We won´t rush Lallana|
|Wenger: We have to be better against top-level teams|
|FIGC presidential candidate uses racist slur|
|MLS Review: Columbus claim second straight win, Toronto falter|
|Villa battle past Dynamo in Houston|
|United more efficient, says Garcia|
|Pedestrian Tottenham edge past Chicago Fire|
|Van Gaal bemoans display|
|CS Sfaxien 1 ES Tunis 0: Troussier era opens with a win|
|Icardi stars from the spot as Inter overcome Real Madrid|
|Arsenal upstaged by Red Bulls|
|Pre-Season Friendly Review: Rooney stars for United, Bayern reach Telekom final|
|In-form Rooney inspires Manchester United win|
|CAF Confederation Cup Review: Cotonsport on verge of progress|
|Ribery helps Bayern to penalty victory on return|
|Balzaretti suffers another injury blow|
|Puel confirms Ospina departure|
|Beckham backs Rodriguez to be Real hit|
|Bojan fails to inspire Stoke|
|Long on target as Hull held by Barnsley|
|Cardiff issue Medel warning|
|Ferreyra sorry for late Shakhtar return|
|Payet rules out Swansea move|
|Gilchrist nets winner as Burnley edge Accrington|
|Cazorla optimistic for new season|
|Celtic suffer St Pauli defeat|
|QPR lose on Ferdinand debut|
|Mashaba handed Bafana Bafana role|
|Van Aanholt eager to prove himself|
|Areola completes Bastia loan switch|
|Ospina imminent, but Szczesny gets Wenger´s backing|
|Reus happy with progress|
|Alleged spot-fixers released|
|Giuly: Mathieu can be the next Abidal|
|Allardyce hoping to keep hold of Morrison|
|Monk hails quality of Swansea additions|
|Van Gaal orders United players to speak English|
|Allardyce: We must improve|
|Campbell thrilled by Palace switch|
|Bojan drawn by Stoke style|
|Palace were wasteful, says Pulis|
|Van Gaal suits me - Cleverley|
|Newcastle stay perfect in NZ|
|Van Gaal prepared to wait for Strootman|
|West Brom overcome Sacramento|
|Colorado Rapids 3 Chivas USA 0: Hosts rise to third in the West|
|Gameiro brace adds to West Ham woes|
|Villas-Boas: Rodriguez best suited to no.10 role|
|Cazorla: I´m happy at Arsenal|
|Reina respects Liverpool contract|
|Lampard could move to Melbourne on loan|
|Galliani: Balotelli ´99.9 per cent´ staying|
|Own goal helps Palace win in Philadelphia|
|Mourinho: Shaw deal would have ´killed´ Chelsea|
|Al Ahli Benghazi 0 ES Setif 2: Visitors on verge of semi-final spot|
|Julio Cesar returns to QPR|
|Rooney wants to lead United|