Fifteen people were arrested on Saturday (May 14) in a “multi-million euro” match-fixing scandal that has rocked Portugal’s second football division, Ledman LigaPro.
Among the detained are eight Oliveirense and Oriental footballers, two Leixões executives including its president, four entrepreneurs and a member of FC Porto’s supporters group ‘Super Dragões’.
According to national press, PJ police suspect that the players were “paid off to purposely play badly and compromise their teams’ results”.
The bribes apparently came from Asian football entrepreneurs in Malaysia, who by rigging matches were able to make “huge profits” on online betting websites.
Diário de Notícias newspaper claims some footballers were caught in telephone wire taps “selling matches and making fun of their teams’ losses”.
The four unidentified entrepreneurs who were arrested, as well as ‘Aranha’ – a well-known member of FC Porto’s supporters group – apparently acted as “middle-men” for the Asian entrepreneurs who led the match-fixing system.
Says DN, they are believed to have offered “millions of euros” to second division players.
The arrested players are Pedro Oliveira, Luís Martins, Hélder Godinho and Ansumane (Oliveirense) and Diego Tavares, André Almeida, Rafael Veloso and João Pedro (Oriental), while the two Leixões executives that were detained are president Carlos Oliveira and football director Nuno Silva.
The investigation entitled ‘Jogo Duplo’ is led by 70 investigators and has already resulted in 30 searches across Portugal.
Of the three clubs involved, two (Oriental and Oliveirense) had already been relegated from Portugal’s second division for several weeks while the other (Leixões) avoided relegation with a 2-1 win in the last game of the season.
In fact, one of the most controversial matches was played between Oriental and Oliveirense on January 9, with the home team winning 5-2 and scoring a number of “suspicious” goals. (see video)
Leixões and Oliveirense have yet to comment, while the president of Oriental, José Fernando Nabais, told Antena 1 radio the club was “surprised” by the arrests but continues to trust its players.
Emanuel Medeiros, the head of the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), dubbed the situation an “earthquake” that is causing “irreparable damage” to the sport’s reputation and called on all authorities to work together to avoid similar corruption cases in the future.
RTP football commentator António Tadeia also explained that match-fixing schemes often happen in “smaller leagues” that don’t receive as much media exposure as others, and with clubs that “no longer have any goals to achieve”.