London caught in match-fixing raids

A Europe-wide investigation into "the biggest match-fixing scandal that European football has ever seen" led to an initial 17 arrests yesterday during raids in four countries, including England, and the seizure of around £900,000 in cash suspected of being gained by illegal means.

The fixing involves an estimated 200 criminals in organised gangs based primarily in Eastern Europe, including in Croatia. The gangs are suspected of corrupting players and officials to fix up to 200 games, many in 2009, in nine domestic leagues, as well as 12 games in the early stages of the Europe League and three in early Champions League matches. No English matches have been identified.

The police operation against the gangs, who are understood to have placed their bets mainly in Asian markets, is being run by the German authorities with backing from Uefa, football's European governing body.

Peter Limacher, Uefa's head of disciplinary services, said: "We at Uefa are stunned by the magnitude of this. We must do everything to make sure those referees, players and officials are taken to justice." The allegedly fixed games were played mainly in lower divisions in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey. Yesterday's raids were at 50 properties across Germany, in London (where one house was targeted and nobody arrested), Austria and Switzerland. Sources say London-based foreign gangsters may be using the capital as a stop-off point for cash in a money-laundering chain linked to the match-fixing.