Law enforcement officials in Croatia and Slovenia have broken up an international organised crime network involved in illegal gambling and sports corruption.
The syndicate – which is alleged to have attempted to rig football matches in countries including the Czech Republic, Macedonia and Serbia – was brought down by a Europol-backed that involved multiple raids across Slovenia and Croatia.
In all, 13 house properties and 15 vehicles were searched as part of the probe, resulting in the arrest of 11 suspects, and the seizure of 35 computers and IT devices, 32 mobile phones, €19 650 in cash, counterfeit euro currency and two cars.
Members of the gang are said to have built an illegal online platform designed to convey large bets on major Asian bookmakers.
In a statement, Europol said the network made a large amount of money by placing bets on spotting events its members the outcome of in advance.
The money the group made would then be reinvested in other forms of illicit activity, including drug dealing.
An investigation into the group’s conspiracy began in March last year, when police in Slovenia were alerted to the fact that its members were trying to manipulate the outcome of multiple sporting events across various European countries.
Commenting on the arrests, Sergio D’Orsi, a Specialist at Europol’s Analysis Project Sports Corruption, said: “Sports corruption is a serious crime and a truly global phenomenon carried out by organised crime groups, most often operating cross-border.
“This international investigation has shown the level of sophistication reached by certain criminal networks involved in sports corruption which use new modus operandi to generate large illegal profits and invest money also coming from other serious crimes.
“International police cooperation is fundamental to disrupt such criminal networks. Our support to the investigation has surely given an added value to our member states thanks to Europol’s unique analytical resources and expertise, and its high-level of engagement in this field.”
Darko Majhenič, Director of National Bureau of Investigations of the Slovenian Police, said: “Slovenian Police is committed to pursue corruption in sport and illegal betting in the region.
“Cooperation among Europol member countries and support of Europol have helped our skilled investigators to handle the workload. Investigators all over Europe will benefit from evidence gathered today.”
According to Europol, sports corruption and bet rigging can involve fixing anything from the final result of a football match to the number of throw-ins penalties corners in a match.
Players, match officials and coaches have been discovered to have taken payment in return for influencing the result of sporting events, with some being persuaded to act dishonestly as a result of intimidation and the threat of violence against them or their families.