Police raid Charleroi, Genk in football corruption probe

Police raid Charleroi, Genk in football corruption probe

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — Belgian police yesterday conducted searches at the club offices of Charleroi and Genk as part of an investigation launched in 2018 into suspicious transfers, federal prosecutors told AFP .

The investigation concerns suspected fraudulent payments in a number of transfers, notably in two moves involving Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Anderlecht.

A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor confirmed the raids carried out were linked to player transfers, but did not specify which ones.

Charleroi, who finished third in Belgium after the season was declared over last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, said the “search, which lasted an hour, took place perfectly”.

“Concerned about the proper conduct of the investigation,” the club said it had “fully cooperated in providing investigators with documents relating to certain player transfers.”

Charleroi is run by French-Iranian businessman Mehdi Bayat, who last year was named president of the Belgian football association.

Bayat is also the brother of Mogi Bayat, a former club director and central figure in the corruption scandal which erupted in October 2018.

Mogi Bayat, one of Belgium's most powerful sports agents, was briefly detained after he was charged with money laundering and conspiracy.

He is suspected of having manipulated several transfers to maximise his own commission fees.

Another player agent, Dejan Veljkovic, agreed to assist prosecutors with their inquiries in exchange for a suspended prison sentence.

Genk had already been targeted during a series of searches and interrogations in February 2019, with Lokeren and associates of Veljkovic also under scrutiny at the time.

In total, around 20 people – including club executives, referees and players – have been charged as part of the probe which also relates to suspected match-fixing.

Charleroi is the club of Jamaica striker Shamar Nicholson, while his teammate Kemar Lawrence laces up for Anderlecht. Another Jamaican, Leon Bailey, who now plays in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, launched his professional career at Genk.

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