Thu, 20 Jun 2019

An influential sports agent from Serbia is among 19 suspects charged in Belgium as part of a massive investigation into financial fraud and match-fixing in the top division of professional Belgian soccer.

Dejan Veljkovic, a scout for Belgium's Sporting Lokeren, was detained and charged on October 12 after a brief court appearance.

Veljkovic is accused of financial fraud as well as attempting to orchestrate match-fixing in a failed effort to save Belgium's former top-tiered KV Mechelen team from relegation to the second division last season.

Veljkovic had contacts with many of the leading soccer clubs in Belgium, including Anderlecht, Club Brugge, and Standard Liege.

His case is just one in a widening probe by Belgium's federal prosecutor into charges of widespread fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering in Belgian football.

Mogi Bayat, another powerful soccer agent in Belgium, was charged on October 12 with money laundering and conspiracy, according to a statement from Belgium's federal prosecutor.

Also detained and charged was sports agent Karim Mejjati, former Anderlecht club lawyer Laurent Denis, and referee Bart Vertenten.

Also detained and charged was sports agent Karim Mejjati, who had been questioned by Belgian authorities earlier this week.

Former Anderlecht club lawyer Laurent Denis has been charged with conspiracy and money laundering while referee Bart Vertenten has been arrested on conspiracy charges.

Another referee, Sebastien Delferiere, was charged on October 11.

Both Delferiere and Vertenten were suspended on October 11 by the Belgian Football Federation.

The prosecutor's office said the year-long probe shows evidence of 'suspect financial operations' by sports agents and indications of 'possible influencing of games' during the 2017-2018 season.

It said some soccer agents, independently from each other, 'would have schemed to hide' transfer commissions, payments to players and coaches, and other payments in order to avoid taxes.

Investigators raided the headquarters of nine Belgian soccer clubs this week as well as the homes of six club officials, four agents, and two referees.

Thirteen raids also were carried out as part of the investigation in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Cyprus, France, and Luxembourg.

Ivan Leko, the Croatian coach of Club Brugge, was charged on October 11 with money laundering.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and The Independent

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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