Police swoop in Marseille transfer probe

The president of Marseille football club and two former directors were taken in for questioning Tuesday as part of a probe into transfers including that of top striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, sources close to the investigation said.

AFP| Updated: Nov 19, 2014, 09:36 AM IST
Police swoop in Marseille transfer probe

Marseille: The president of Marseille football club and two former directors were taken in for questioning Tuesday as part of a probe into transfers including that of top striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, sources close to the investigation said.

The investigation, which includes claims of extortion, money-laundering and associating with criminals, began in 2011.

On Tuesday all relevant documents concerning the 2010 transfer of Gignac were seized in a swoop at a club with a troubled history but which is currently top of France`s Ligue 1.

Vincent Labrune, the club president, was taken into custody in Marseille along with the club`s director-general Philippe Perez and former president Pape Diouf.

Another former president, Jean-Claude Dassier, was being held in Paris and a total of ten people, including agents and middlemen, were due to be held overnight at the investigators` headquarters.

The investigation is looking into "contentious" money transfers "made in recent years", sources close to the investigation said. A police source spoke of "fraud linked to several transfers".

The transfer of Gignac from Toulouse in 2010 is part of the probe, which is being overseen by France`s organised and financial crime squad.

Several current and former officials from Marseille have already been questioned in the affair, and investigators have raided the club`s offices and seized documents in recent months.

However, the club released a statement insisting that it was previous management under investigation rather than the current regime.

"The current questioning relates to an investigation that began two years ago revolving notably around previous player transfers," said a Marseille statement, while adding that the club had been collaborating with investigators.

Sources close to the case said there was "enough material" to "scrutinise the past and present management of OM (Olympique Marseille)" and the allegedly illegal transfers.

Those in custody "will have to explain themselves from top to bottom", the source added.

Marseille have a sorry history when it comes to corruption, having lost their 1993 Ligue 1 title after being caught fixing the result of a league match against Valenciennes -- which they won 1-0 -- so they could keep players fresh for the Champions League final, which they won six days later against AC Milan by the same score.

In an unrelated case on Tuesday, three second division club presidents were among eight people arrested in a match-fixing probe.

Nimes president Jean-Marc Conrad and counterparts Jean-Francois Fortin of Caen, who are now in Ligue 1, and Dijon`s Olivier Dall`Oglio were taken into custody.

That affair surrounds the suspicion that the results of certain second division matches last season were manipulated to help Nimes avoid relegation to the third division, a source close to the case said.

The case apparently revolves around a betting ring led by Nimes`s major shareholder Serge Kasparian.

It is being investigated by the SCCJ, a special body tasked with regulating the betting and gambling industry.

One match under the spotlight was a 1-1 draw between Caen and Nimes on May 13 that helped Caen secure promotion to the top flight and virtually assured Nimes of their survival.

Caen have denied any involvement in corruption.

"We`re a clean club, we`re had an affair that concerns Nimes inflicted on us," said Caen official Xavier Gravelaine.