A task force led by Cremona police department led to 16 arrests in multiple locations throughout Italy after the conclusion of a lengthy investigation focused on players who fix games as well as bet on sports in Italy, specifically football.
Arrested and held without bail are seven top suspects – Antonio Bellavista (retired football player), Gorgio Buffone (Director of Sports for the city of Ravenna), Giuseppe Signori (retired Italian international team player), Marco Paoloni (goalkeeper Benevento), Massimo Erodiani (tobacco executive), Marco Piran (dentist), and Gianfranco Parlato (retired football player).
The remaining nine who are mostly football players from multiple teams have been places under house arrest. If even a quarter of the allegations are proven, it would be difficult if not impossible for football clubs to regain the trust of the fans.
According to online gambling news in Italy, prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to prove the suspects guilt.
Allegedly dozens of football matches were fixed in 2010 and 2011. In one particularly bizarre incident, goalkeeper Marco Paoloni is accused of placing large bets on the opposing team prior to the match and then drugging his teammates with a diazepam (Valium) analog.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as 28 more Italians players including Christiano Doni, the captain of Atalanta, are under investigation. The names of the owners of two of the football clubs have also surfaced on wire taps at as various underworld figures.
The accused face a wide array of charges under Italian gambling laws including criminal conspiracy and multiple flavors of fraud. Due to the public outrage and the seriousness of the charges there is a good chance that convictions will result in very lengthy terms of incarceration.
The list of fixed football games is quite lengthy and is expected to keep growing. One analyst quipped that perhaps it would have been easier for prosecution to release the names of football games which were honest and save a few forests worth of paper.
Guido Salvini, who is prosecuting the case, fingered Giuseppe Signori as the mastermind and warned that the impact of this scandal and its aftershocks will be felt for years with “big damages for clubs, loyal punters and on the overall fairness of these competitions.”
Signori, a retired star player, was allegedly betting E150,000 on some of the games and was recorded on wire taps talking about sports betting and making incriminating statements.
Signori has denied all charges, claiming the prosecutors are tying him into the case for the name recognition and celebrity factor.