An Italian police anti-corruption unit has detained 50 people, including team managers, players and a suspected Calabrian mobster, on Tuesday for allegedly fixing dozens of matches in Lega Pro, Italian football’s third tier professional league.
“The probe demonstrates there was a heinous pact of corruption in the world of soccer,” said Andrea Grassi, an investigator from the anti-mafia police unit. “It shows the interest of criminal networks in the business generated by soccer and the legal betting industry.”
According to a police official, the investigation began when police tapped the telephone of a member of the Lannazzo mob family in Calabria and discovered that he was arranging matches to make money by betting on them.
Investigators suspect Serie B, Lega Pro and Serie D matches from the 2014-15 season were fixed. Investigators said there were two different criminal gangs, one to set up the games in Lega Pro and the other handling Serie D.
Among those sought by police for bribing players and coaches were Serbs, Albanians and Maltese nationals.
Police across Italy rounded up suspects including 27 team presidents and managers, 17 players, 5 coaches, and 1 police officer. Some of the clubs targeted by the investigation are San Severo, Pro Patria, Barletta, Brindisi, L’Aquila, Santarcangelo, Neapolis, Mugnano, Montalto, Vigor-Lametia, Sorrento, Puteolana, Akragas and Torres.
Italy has been rocked by other match-fixing scandals in recent years. Mafia groups have increasingly tapped into the country’s legal gambling industry in an attempt to earn and launder money.
The investigation followed a similar scandal in the 2010-11 season, when the results of Serie B and Lega Pro matches were discovered to have been set up.