European football match-fixing trial opens in Germany

Football match (file image)
Image caption Police say they have 250 suspects in the investigation into match-fixing

The trial of four men accused of fixing 32 football matches in several European countries has begun in Germany.

If found guilty they could be jailed for up to 10 years.

Several other men are expected to be charged in what has been called the biggest fraud scandal ever in European football.

In total, nearly 300 matches in 15 European countries are alleged to have been affected.

The four men who appeared in court in the western city of Bochum have been in custody since November 2009, when German police made a total of 15 arrests.

They are accused of having bribed referees and players to throw matches.

Officers had been eavesdropping for several months on telephone conversations in which the suspects had allegedly been discussing the games they were going to fix and the money they would make by betting on the results.

'Bets placed'

The 15 are accused of having profited to the tune of several million euros, sometimes with bets placed in Asia by agents based in London.

More than 70 of the games under suspicion were played in Turkey.

Germany and Switzerland also feature prominently among the 15 countries affected.

Many of the suspect matches were played in the lower divisions, but it is believed that at least three were in the Champions League. One of the accused is a professional footballer.

This is likely to be the first of several trials. Police say they have 250 suspects.

There is no evidence that games in Germany's top league, the Bundesliga, are involved, to the relief of the German football authorities.

But this trial will raise questions about the integrity of football in the lower leagues in a large number of European countries, the BBC's Tim Mansel reports.

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