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Journalist: Italian arrests could be the tip of a match-fixing iceberg

December 20, 2011 -- Updated 1035 GMT (1835 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Italian prosecutors find links to Asia, South America and other parts of Europe
  • Former international Cristiano Doni among 17 people arrested on Monday
  • Atalanta veteran had already been banned from football in August after first probe
  • Italian journalist says it is likely clubs are involved in the scandal as well as players

(CNN) -- Football's latest match-fixing scandal could have implications far wider than Italy, where 17 people were arrested on Monday including former World Cup player Cristiano Doni.

Doni had already been banned until 2014 by the Italian Football Federation in the first part of the "Last Bet" investigation earlier this year.

The former Atalanta captain, whose club started this Serie A season with a six-point penalty due to his and a teammate's offenses, has now been suspected of trying to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors told reporters that the arrests, which also included former players Luigi Sartor and Alessandro Zamperini plus Piacenza's Carlo Gervasoni and Spezia's Filippo Carobbio, were "a starting point in cleaning up the beautiful game that is football."

Italian football journalist Tancredi Palmeri told CNN that investigators had found links to people outside the country -- in Asia, South America and other parts of Europe.

They know there are games in Argentina and Bolivia involved, and they suspect other European leagues
Journalist Tancredi Palmeri

"This one can be bigger. This time investigators found a link between the single players in the team and someone abroad -- they talk about Singapore, where we know there was already some suspicion of crime connected with illegal betting," Palmeri said on Monday.

"This can also involve other leagues, not only Italian. Investigators said they will investigate Italian football because they are Italian investigators.

"They know for sure there are games in Argentina and Bolivia involved, and they suspect other European leagues including German leagues and French leagues."

European football's governing body UEFA has already had to deal with betting scandals in Eastern Europe and Turkey this year.

This is the latest in a series of investigations affecting Italy.

Juventus lost two league titles in 2006 due to the "Calciopoli" affair, which saw the Turin side relegated to Serie B after being accused of rigging games by arranging "favorable" match officials and also implicated AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina.

Doni, 38, was banned in August along with clubmate Thomas Manfredini and fellow former Italy international Giuseppe Signori, but all have denied any wrongdoing.

Palmeri said it was likely that clubs are also involved, not just players -- one of who claimed such activities had been going on for a decade, according to prosecutors.

"Everything is connected with the fact that if single players are connected or clubs are connected," Palmeri said.

"Last time, Calciopoli, that was football institutions and the clubs. This time, as we saw already in summer, it's so far just single players trying to make money giving connections and trying to fix the games through the contacts they have in football."

Prosecutor Roberto Di Martino revealed the extent of outside involvement.

"At the top of this organization are men from Singapore, who are those who move the money, but the shareholders are divided from the West, to the Far East, to South America, and they manage with their men how to change the outcome of football matches," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Meanwhile, former Atalanta coach Bartolo Mutti has been appointed as boss of Palermo for the second time after Devis Mangia was sacked on Monday.

Mangia took charge of the Serie A side on a temporary basis at the end of August in his first major coaching role, and signed a two-year contract last month.

But Sunday's 2-0 defeat by Sicilian rivals Catania left Palermo 10th in the table, and the 37-year-old became the ninth coaching casualty in Serie this season.

Mutti, 57, coached Palermo in 2001-02 when the club languished in the second division. His last two jobs ended in relegation after taking over at Atalanta and Bari in the latter parts of the season.

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