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Football 19 charged in Belgium football fraud probe: prosecutor

Belgian prosecutors have charged 19 suspects and detained nine in a massive fraud and match-fixing scandal that has mired Belgium's elite league in scandal, they said on Friday.

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Agent Mogi Bayat has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy play

Agent Mogi Bayat has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy

(BELGA/AFP/File)

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Belgian prosecutors have charged 19 suspects and detained nine in a massive fraud and match-fixing scandal that has mired Belgium's elite league in scandal, they said on Friday.

The charges came after police on Wednesday carried out a massive operation in Belgium, arresting 29 people, 10 of which were released without charges.

Among the detained were at least three players' agents, a referee, and a top executive from a major football club, a statement from prosecutors said.

Mogi Bayat, portrayed in the media as Belgium's most powerful sports agent, was charged with money laundering and conspiracy, the statement said.

Bayat was detained pending his next hearing, as were fellow agents Dejan Veljkovic and Karim Mejjati, who were questioned this week as part of the operation targeting Belgium's football elite.

Referee Bart Vertenten was also charged with conspiracy and arrested, while former Anderlecht club lawyer Laurent Denis was charged for both conspiracy and money laundering.

On Thursday, another referee, Sebastien Delferiere, was charged but was immediately released on parole.

Vertenten and Delferiere were suspended on Thursday with immediate effect by the Belgian Football Federation.

The charges against referees are part of a probe into suspected match-fixing by Veljkovic in a failed effort to save formerly top-tier KV Mechelen from relegation to the second division.

Club Brugge coach Ivan Leko, whose team is playing in the Champion's League, was charged with money laundering on Thursday and released.

Hearings before the judge were held throughout night with former Anderlecht boss Herman Van Holsbeeck released without charges.

The operation led to a total of 60 police searches Wednesday, including the headquarters of leading clubs in the Belgian first division, with Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Standard Liege and Genk among them.

The huge operation took place simultaneously in Belgium and six other European countries, including France and Serbia, where an agent was arrested Thursday and awaits extradition.

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