CORRUPTION IN SPORT

Spanish match-rigging network fixed soccer game in Italy’s Serie A league

Police investigation finds that alleged ringleader Carlos Aranda bet and won on a game that had been pre-arranged, while wiretaps reveal that the former soccer player gave instructions to a partner on how to do a deal with one of the teams

Luca Ceppitelli of Cagliari in action  during the Serie A match between Cagliari and Frosinone Calcio at Sardegna Arena on April 20, 2019 in Cagliari.
Luca Ceppitelli of Cagliari in action during the Serie A match between Cagliari and Frosinone Calcio at Sardegna Arena on April 20, 2019 in Cagliari.Enrico Locci / Getty Images

A Spanish network of soccer-match rigging that was busted at the end of May also reached Italy. According to court documents, to which EL PAÍS has had access, police investigators into the so-called “Oikos” ring have concluded that the network fixed the result of a Serie A game between Cagliari and Frosinone, which was played on April 20 and ended up 1-0. The police account states that former soccer player Carlos Aranda, who is one of the alleged ringleaders of the network, bet money on Cagliari to win, and he collected on that wager. “It can be seen that this bet came from a fix,” the investigators wrote.

Match rigging in the top Italian league came onto the radar of investigators thanks to a conversation on April 2 between Aranda and Mattia Mariotti that was recorded on a microphone that had been installed by the police in the former player’s car. Mariotti is an Italian national who lives in the Spanish city of Málaga, a little more than a kilometer from the betting shop owned by Aranda in the El Palo neighborhood. Mariotti is also “highly trusted by Carlos Aranda, given that he moves money from Málaga to Rome and vice versa, transporting as much as €90,000 in his briefcase,” investigators stated.

At 12.20pm, the Italian mentions a chance to rig a game.

Mariotti: Dude, on Thursday I’m going to see the guys from the Frosinone team too.

Aranda: They’re going down, right? [They were slipping down the league, 10 points from being saved, with nine games ahead of them; in the end they were relegated].

M: Yes. What am I going to tell them? The goals, right? The result.

A: Whatever they want, but that has to be with the players.

M: The players, it’s the players I’m seeing. I’m taking my friend with the long hair. He has a code. What’s the name of the team manager, the one who is always with the team, that’s good friends with the players, you understand? He has dinner with all the players.

A: The delegate.

M: The delegate. And the three or four from the team that they send are their friends. I’m going to eat with those guys. Look, I’ll suggest it to them. Then I’ll tell him if they want to do it. We don’t have to see the players, right?

A: [Unintelligible]

M: Later on you have to tell me what I have to say, what we negotiate.

A: That’s really simple. They tell you what they want, what they can do. You know what the problem is? The problem is...

M: That they’re risking it.

A: Nooo. That they will tell more people when they close it. This seems easy, but it’s not that easy.

In that conversation Aranda is heard returning to one of his main concerns when there is talk about betting on fixed soccer games: being able to count on the players to keep quiet and that no one gets tipped off.

The “friend with the long hair” is an old-school bookmaker, without a place of business or even a website. “He’s on the phone all day,” Aranda explains. “He works with a lot of money. For example, you say to him, I want to bet €10,000 on Roma. Ok, I’ll give it to you at 1.50. OK perfect, tomorrow you either pay me or I pay you. And that’s it,” says Mariotti. In that conversation in the car, he tells Aranda that the Frosinone delegate owes the guy with the long hair between €120,000 and €130,000, “money from bets.”

On the back of that conversation, the police ask the Huesca judge in charge of the investigation to monitor Mariotti’s phone. And the magistrate, Ángel de Pedro, agrees. The judge later writes: “Mattia Mariotti is a member of the criminal organization dedicated to fixing soccer matches and making money from sports bets, and who directly depends on the principal suspect, Carlos Aranda, being on the same level in the organization as Íñigo López Montaña, that’s to say, acting as an intermediary between the heads of the organization and the soccer players.” The judge adds that he “acts as an intermediary between the players from an Italian team, Calcio, where Mattia knows a friend who he refers to as ‘my friend with the long hair’ (for now unknown), who is, at the same time, the person who has the trust of the delegate of the team and with the three or four players to whom he suggests a deal in exchange for an amount of money.”

In the writ that authorizes the wiretaps on Mariotti, the judge adds a detail: leaving “out those fixed matches, and those bets, that were put out by the latter and his unknown friend in Italy, given that this court does not have jurisdiction.” Later on he adds: “That, notwithstanding the communication of this evidence to the FCS [the security forces].”

On April 19, the night before the Cagliari-Frosinone match, with Frosinone eight points from escaping relegation and six games to come, Aranda calls Ignacio Ojeda, his partner at the El Palo betting shop.

Aranda: Do you want to win five or 10,000 bucks?

Ojeda: I’ve got nothing to invest right now, brother.

A: Well I’ve got news for you that’s going to make you go crazy, OK?

A: Well, I’ve got news for you if you want to earn some money.

O: What is it?

A: When I get back I’ll tell you.

O: Seriously though, yes or no? Because I really don’t have it, brother.

A: Well I’m not saying it to you brother, dude. Have I ever let you down? Tell me the truth.

O: That’s why I’m not betting, because only yours come through, the others that I bet on never come up.

A: Have I ever let you down? Did I let you down last year?

O: No, no, no.

A: Well, this week I’m going to give you a surprise.

O: All right brother, I’ll tell you the truth. If you really are 95% sure, you tell me.

A: 95? 98.

“There is clear evidence that Carlos Aranda bet on that game via an employee at his betting shop Luckia,” say the police.

On April 20, when the Cagliari-Frosinone game was 12 minutes in, “Ana calls Carlos Aranda. Ana tells him that she has put €500 on the Cagliari game and that she can’t bet on the Germany game. Carlos Aranda tells her that the Germany game has finished and he tells Ana that she should put €1,000 on Cagliari instead,” according to the police investigators.

A quarter of an hour later, at the 27th minute, Cagliari scores a penalty, after Frosinone player Francesco Zampano collides uncontrollably into a striker. “Just at the time when the local team scores,” the police say, Aranda “urgently calls his employee.” “Carlos asks her if she bet the €1,000. Ana says yes. And Carlos Aranda tells her that they are winning,” the investigators state. The game finished with that 1-0, which saw Aranda collect his winnings.

Sporting scandal

Around a dozen arrests were made in Spain in late May as part of this probe into the alleged match-fixing network. Among those detained were the former Real Madrid and Spanish national team player Raúl Bravo, suspected of being a ringleader of the criminal association, as well as the chairman of the Huesca soccer club, Agustín Lasaosa. A second-division match between that team and Club Gimnàstic de Tarragona – known as Nàstic – was the origin of the probe.

Another one of the games under investigation was played between Valladolid and Valencia on the last day of this season, and saw Valencia qualify for the Champions League. Strange bets placed by at least one of the players from Valladolid aroused suspicions.

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