LEEDS star Samuel Saiz has reportedly been investigated by police over alleged match-fixing in La Liga.
Spanish cops have confirmed they expect to arrest eleven people as part of an operation targeting match-fixing – which Valencia have been caught up in – including current and retired first and second division players.
Officers did not refer to the players by their names in a statement they issued at midday today and a spokesman for Spain’s National Police said she was unable to say whether they included Saiz.
But the force said in a statement: “National Police officers are carrying out an operation against an organisation allegedly dedicated to professional football match-fixing.
“As part of Operation Oikos, directed by Court of Investigation Number Five in the city of Huesca, nine searches will be carried out in different parts of the country in relation with the crimes of sports match-fixing, money laundering and criminal organisation.
“Eleven people are expected to be arrested, among them active and retired first division football players, second division footballers who are still playing, as well as the presidents and heads of a club.
“The investigation has enabled investigators to confirm that those under investigation reached agreements with different players to fix at least three matches in the first, second and third divisions.
“The match-fixing that was attempted in the third division game failed but the players involved agreed to compensate the losses by repeating in the future.
“One of the match fixes, a second division game, led to betting firms seeing a 14-fold increase in the amount of money that was being wagered compared with normal volumes for this division.”
The force explained in its statement how the fixing took place, from the selection of games which were ideally at the start or end of the season though to the process of recruitment.
The spokesman said: “The preference was for targeting one of the captains. Once they agreed to the match-fixing, the money was always paid in cash and in two stages, one before the game and once after the game when the required result had been achieved.
“With Operation Oikos, Spain’s National Police has reinforced its commitment with Spanish society and consolidated itself at European level as a pioneering force into the investigation of the criminal structures that control sports match and game-fixing.”
National Police also released footage of them making arrests and searching premises. It was not initially clear from the footage which properties they were searching and who the man in black shorts and a black top was that they had detained.
Officers were also filmed counting out 50 and 20 Euros notes in part of the footage.
Although several Spanish papers reported Saiz, 28, had been arrested, radio station COPE said it had confirmed he was under investigation but had not been formally jailed.
Saiz is currently playing on loan at Madrid side Getafe.
Former Real Madrid defender Raul Bravo, 38, is claimed to be the ringleader of the match-fixing group.
Respected daily newspapers El Mundo and ABC, citing police sources, have also named RC Deportivo de la Coruna player Inigo Lopez and retired footballer Borja Fernandez, who was playing for Real Valladolid when he hung up his boots, as detainees.
The police operation began at 8.30am and police officers are understood to have searched the HQ of Sociedad Deportiva Huesca, which has just been relegated from La Liga.
The club’s president Augustin Lasaosa has reportedly been arrested.
CLAMPDOWN ON CORRUPTION
As well as match-fixing, police are also investigating accusations of money laundering.
This morning’s police operation is said to have been sparked by a second division match last season between Huesca and Nastic de Tarragona.
Home side Huesca, who had already been promoted to La Liga, lost 1-0 to Nastic who were fighting to stay in the second division.
Nigerian Ikechukwu Uche scored the only goal of the game in May last year in the 72nd minute.
Around 30 betting agencies and websites are said to have suspended betting after detecting an alarming rise in bets on a 0-0 draw at half-time and an away team victory at the end of the match.
Francesco Baranco, Secretary General of Federbet which fights against match-fixing, described the movements as “mad.”
An increased number of bets which aroused suspicion reportedly came from Ukraine and Asia.
The Spanish Football Federation is believed to have flagged up its suspicions of possible match-fixing before today’s police operation with Spanish state prosecutors.
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Leeds signed Saiz from Huesca in 2017 and he made 58 appearances for the club before being loaned out to Getafe in December.
Bravo, the supposed leader of the corrupt organisation, played for Real between 2001 and 2007, winning La Liga twice, the Champions League and the Spanish Super Cup.
The defender – who also had a brief spell on loan at Leeds in 2003 – won 14 Spain caps during his career.