Judicial Authorities hope to press charges against 57 referees, coaches and football agents
The Federal Judicial Authorities hope to bring criminal charges against a total of 57 suspects for their part in a fraud and bribery scandal that has shaken Belgian football to its core. The bribery and fraud came to light during the Operation Zero investigation. Among the 57 suspects the Judicial Authorities hope to prosecute are some big-name referees, coaches and board members of top First Division clubs. It will be up to magistrates to decide which of the suspects will appear in court.
At the end of 2018 the police and the Judicial Authorities searched several properties as part of an investigation into money laundering, bribery, and match fixing. It is alleged that coaches and clubs received large sums of (undeclared) money for the transfer of players. Football agents are alleged to have paid referees to influence the results of games.
One of the figures at the centre of the investigation was the football agent Dejan Veljkovic. He struck a deal with the Judicial Authorities and provided them with information in exchange for a reduced sentence. The deal was approved by the Chamber of Indictment in November. Mr Veljkovic told VRT News’ investigative documentary programme Pano how a total of 30 million euro passed though his hands as part of shady dealings.
Big name suspects
The Judicial Authorities have now completed their investigation and have requested that 57 of the original 73 suspects be summoned to appear in court.
The investigation names the football agent Uros Jankovic as the leading figure in a system of secret payments to players, coaches, agents, and the board members of clubs.
Among the suspects are big names in the world of football such as the referees Bart Vertenten and Sébastien Delferière, the agent Mogi Bayat and the coaches Peter Maes, Ivan Leko, Glen De Boeck and Yannick Ferrera. Current and former Board members of football clubs such as Thierry Steemans, Herman Van Holsbeeck, Vincent Mannaert, Michel Louwagie, Patrick Janssens, Roger Lambrecht and Bart Verhaeghe are also named. The former Belgian FA Chairman François De Keersmaecker and the FA’s former Secretary-General Steven Martens are also among those the Judicial Authorities want to send to court.
Numerous top Belgian clubs are involved in the scandal. These include KV Mechelen, Anderlecht, Charleroi, Standard, Kortrijk, Oud-Heverlee Leuven, Waasland-Beveren, Lokeren, Genk, Club Brugge and AA Gent.
It will be up to magistrates to decide how many of the suspects will have to appear in court. In addition to the investigation by the Judicial Authorities, around 200 people are being prosecuted by the Tax Department.