Paris: Police kept the president of league leaders Olympique Marseille in custody Wednesday as part of a transfer fraud investigation while stepping up a parallel inquiry into match-fixing.
Fifteen serving and past Marseille officials, including president Vincent Labrune and two of his predecessors, were detained in raids on Tuesday. Recordings of phone conversations between the leaders of French second division clubs meanwhile rocked the sporting establishment.
Police are looking into transfers made in recent years, including that of key striker Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse to Marseille in 2010.
Suspicions of extortion, money-laundering, fraud and conspiracy with underworld gangs are being investigated, police sources told AFP.
The sources said gangland figures were suspected of receiving commissions from several major transfers, including that of French World Cup player Gignac and Senegalese international Souleymane Diawara. Diawara joined in 2009 from Bordeaux and left this year for Nice.
No player has been implicated in the inquiry. But documents on the Gignac deal were among papers seized in raids on Marseille`s headquarters in recent weeks.
The club insisted in a statement that the investigation was focused on past management teams and that it was merely helping the inquiry.
The detention of Labrune, alongside his managing director Philippe Perez and predecessors Jean-Claude Dassier and Pape Diouf, is still an embarrassment to the club as they enjoy their most successful season since they last won the title in 2009-2010.
The club have won nine Ligue 1 titles and are looking to equal St Etienne`s record of 10.
Marseille`s fans are exasperated at the new blow to the image of one of France`s best-supported clubs.
The club were stripped of a Ligue 1 title they won in 1993 after being found guilty of "buying" a match against Valenciennes.
Second division side Nimes are at the centre of a separate inquiry into the fixing of games last season.
Police are investigating whether Nimes owner, Serge Kasparian, approached other teams to fix results so that his side were not relegated to the third division.
Police have detained the president of Caen, Jean-Francois Fortin, whose team played Nimes on May 13. The 1-1 result meant Nimes stay in the second division and helped Caen to promotion to Ligue 1.
Dijon have also been raided. Nimes` current president Jean-Marc Conrad and Dijon coach Olivier Dall`Oglio are among some 10 people detained.
The Canard Enchaine satirical weekly released a transcript of a telephone conversation between Fortin and Conrad which it said was made by police.
In the recording, Fortin says: "You need a point as well?" Conrad replied "Yes, we need a point too, there it is." The Caen president then says: "Well if we are not too stupid, ugh?"
The weekly said that 24 boxes of wine, 288 bottles, were left outside the Caen dressing room after the game.
Caen president Fortin protested his innocence through his lawyer. "He has a fierce desire to prove his total innocence in this matter," lawyer, Xavier Morice told France 3 in an interview.
Fortin was "completely stunned and flabbergasted" by the allegations against him, added the representative.
Canard Enchaine also released recordings of conversations between Fortin and the leaders of Dijon and CA Bastia.
The weekly said Nimes owner had tried to arrange the score of a match against Dijon but lost 5-1. Kasparian was quoted as saying: "Really we did everything to prepare so that they played easy. But each time they were alone against the keeper. They had to score."