Justice Minister of Brazil, Flavio Dino, announced that the country will initiate a comprehensive national investigation into football match-fixing, which could have significant international ramifications.
The decision comes in response to a request from Brazil’s soccer confederation amidst an ongoing state investigation that has led to the suspension of several footballers from local clubs and Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids.
The initial probe in the state of Goias targeted matches from the previous season in Brazil’s top flight but has since expanded to include second-division matches. Prosecutors revealed that some athletes were allegedly paid between 50,000 and 100,000 Brazilian reals ($10,000 to $20,000) to deliberately receive bookings or concede penalties to their opponents.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino took to Twitter to announce that the country’s federal police will commence an investigation due to compelling evidence of match-fixing in sports events, with potential inter-state and international implications.
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Following Dino’s announcement, Major League Soccer stated that an unidentified player had been suspended from club activities due to reports of their alleged involvement in unlawful sports gambling. This decision came shortly after Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported the alleged involvement of Brazilian midfielder Max Alves from the Colorado Rapids in the investigation. While the Colorado Rapids confirmed the suspension, they did not disclose the player’s identity.
Other clubs, including Athletico, Cruzeiro, Fluminense, America, and Coritiba, have also preemptively suspended players mentioned in the probe. However, a lawyer representing two Coritiba players, Alef Manga and Jesus Trindade, denied their involvement in the alleged scheme.
Concerns were raised by Brazilian media regarding the performances of several players during the 2022 season, suggesting they could be targeted by the ongoing “Maximum Penalty” investigation that began in February.
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The Brazilian soccer confederation (CBF) expressed its support for the government’s investigation, aiming to centralize information about the cases under scrutiny. The CBF emphasized that the top-flight division would not be suspended, emphasizing that it, too, is a victim of potential criminal acts.
The CBF called for severe punishment for athletes and other individuals implicated in the fraudulent scheme.
The state prosecutors confirmed that 16 individuals, including seven players, will face trial in the case. Santos defender Eduardo Bauermann, one of the listed players, was suspended by his club after evidence allegedly showed his involvement in match-fixing discussions via text messages.
“We are all upset; me, the squad, the journalists,” Santos coach Odair Hellmann said about Bauermann during a press conference after his team beat Bahia 3-0 in a Brazilian top-flight division match on Wednesday. “We have to see him as role model of what not to do.”
The CBF chairman, Ednaldo Rodrigues, stated his commitment to collaborating with FIFA and international bodies, as well as clubs and Brazilian federations, to combat crime, fraud, and wrongdoing in soccer.
“I am working with FIFA and other international bodies, besides clubs and Brazilian federations, with the intent of fighting every kind of crime, fraud or wrongdoing in soccer,” CBF chairman Ednaldo Rodrigues said in the statement.
“I defend the preemptive suspension (of players) based on concrete suspicions and even the ban from sport in proven cases.”