Kick Back: Two ex-Real Madrid players arrested as part of crackdown on corruption, money laundering and match fixing.
Police in Spain have arrested two former Real Madrid players for alleged match-fixing as part of a fresh crackdown on football corruption and money laundering led by organised criminal gangs.
The president of a former La Liga club, SD Huesca, has also been arrested amid concerns over suspicious football bets placed in Ukrainian and Chinese currencies.
Raul Bravo, who played for the world’s biggest football club between 2000 and 2007, is among several players, ex-players and football executives arrested during a huge police operation which was still ongoing as Byline Times went to press.
A second former Real Madrid player, Borja Fernandez, is also among those arrested.
Fernandez played for Real Madrid between 2003 and 2006, a period in which the club was famous for pursuing its “Galatico” policy of signing the world’s biggest players each summer. England stars David Beckham and Michael Owen both signed for Read Madrid during this period – joining the likes of Frenchman Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian striker Ronaldo in the side.
Other players or ex-players arrested include former Seville forward Carlos Aranda, and Deportivo La Coruna defender Inigo Lopez Montana. Leeds United striker Samuel Saiz Alonso – who is currently on loan at Spanish club Getafe – is reportedly also under investigation, but has not been detained.
The current president of Sociedad Deportiva Huesca, Agustin Lasaosa, has also been arrested.
The police in Spain have been working on this operation for approximately one year. It follows tip-offs from various sources which became concerned about suspicious betting patterns and other activities.
“SD” Huesca recently competed in the top-flight of Spanish football, La Liga, but were relegated to the second tier after finishing the season in 19th place. The club is based in the Aragon region of Spain, north of the city of Zaragoza.
Pedro Camarero, a legal representative for SD Huesca, today confirmed that a judicial committee will shortly visit the club’s offices to sift through its documentation. In a statement, he said the club would comply fully with all judicial requests and had “no concern”.
The police have made the arrests under the banner of “Operation Oikos”. All of the arrested men are accused of belonging to an organised criminal group (OCG) which has specialised in corruption and money laundering.
A source familiar with the investigation told Byline Times: ‘The police in Spain have been working on this operation for approximately one year. It follows tip-offs from various sources which became concerned about suspicious betting patterns and other activities.’
The Matches they Fixed
Police in Spain have a list of matches they believe were targeted by the OCG over the past three seasons – including La Liga matches.
Byline Times understands that one of the matches under police scrutiny is a second division match between SD Huesca and Nastic which took place in May 2018. Nastic won the match 1-0.
But a further eight professional football matches are also under scrutiny by detectives.
In addition, the results of 18 football matches have been referred to Spain’s gaming directorate amid concerns over suspicious betting patterns.
According to Spanish newspaper El Periodico, one of the matches targeted by the OCG is believed to have received a volume of bets around 14 times higher than normal.
Police have been told that two major betting companies, Unibet and 888, reported large volumes of bets placed on in Ukrainian and Chinese currency – an unusual pattern for Spanish lower league football.
The potential links to eastern European OCGs will not come as a surprise. In recent years, Spanish football has been targeted by a number of gangs with links to eastern European mafias. In 2017, Spanish police made several arrests of men allegedly linked to a Russian mafia under the banner “Operation Oligarch”.
Help the Kick Back Team
Our ‘Kick Back’ campaign aims to draw renewed global attention to the dark practices which threaten to undermine or overwhelm the sport. Please contact the Byline Times team – via Mark@bylinetimes.com – in confidence, with any information you believe will help in this fight – no matter how small. Money laundering, for example, takes place at all levels of football, and small, local clubs are as likely to be victims, or perpetrators, as the game’s professional elite.