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Spanish Police Investigate La Liga Match-Fixing

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Leeds forward Samuel Saiz is currently under investigation in Spain over alleged match fixing in La Liga, according to reports.

A spokesman for Spain’s National Police has confirmed an operation is ‘ongoing’ with former Real Madrid player Raul Bravo also said to have been held.

He has been described by El Mundo as the suspected ringleader of a criminal organisation dedicated to gambling-motivated match-fixing of Spanish first and second division games.

Spanish police have confirmed they expect to arrest up to 11 people as part of their operation in tackling match-fixing, 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 on Tuesday and a spokesman for Spain’s National Police said she was unable to say whether they included Leeds player 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.’

Valencia beat their opponents 2-0 in the final game of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign.

The force also 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 through 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.’

Saiz has been on loan at Getafe this season and 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.

Valencia’s match away at Valladolid, which they won 2-0 on the final day of the season to finish fourth in La Liga, was the ‘final trigger that led to all the arrests that are taking place today,’ according to Spanish crime reporter Nacho Abad.

Abad revealed on Tuesday:

‘On the last day of the La Liga season on May 18, a match involving a team which will play Champions League football next season (Valencia) was allegedly fixed.’

Diverting any blame away from Valencia, who on Saturday beat Barcelona to lift the Copa del Rey, Abad added:

‘It wasn’t a game that was allegedly fixed between clubs. What we’re talking about is players and ex-players who allegedly fixed the match to earn money from betting sites.

‘Borja Fernandez, an ex-Real Madrid player is an ex-Valladolid player who only left the club a week ago and started the match that day as captain.’

He added: ‘Let’s suppose the captain has let himself be influenced by bets, it doesn’t mean that the whole team would play worse, so we’ll have to see if there are more arrests later today and in coming days.’

Valencia firmly moved to distance themselves from match-fixing allegations that have emerged on Tuesday.

Valencia’s statement read:

‘Following the news that appeared this Tuesday in relation to the presumed implication of players and leaders of other clubs in illegal bets related to alleged matches of parties, Valencia CF, as an entity absolutely unrelated to this matter, wishes to publicly warn that it will undertake the appropriate legal measures, with the consequences that derive from it, against anyone who spreads any rumour or unfounded news that tries to relate our club to the aforementioned topic.’