Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Current, past l’OM officials questioned in transfer enquiry

AFP, MARSEILLE, France

Olympique de Marseille’s Andre-Pierre Gignac walks on the pitch after giving his shorts to fans at the end of their Ligue 1 match against Paris Saint-Germain in Paris on Nov. 9.

Photo: Reuters

The president and director-general of Olympique de Marseille were taken in for questioning along with two former directors on Tuesday as part of a probe into transfers, including that of top striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, sources said.

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

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

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

Another former president, Jean-Claude Dassier, was being held in Paris and a total of 10 people, including agents and middlemen, were due to be held overnight at the investigators’ headquarters.

The probe is looking into “contentious” money transfers “made in recent years,” sources close to the investigation said, while a police source spoke of “fraud linked to several transfers.”

Gignac’s transfer from Toulouse in 2010 is part of the probe, which is being overseen by France’s organized and financial crime squad. Several current and former officials from Marseille have already been questioned, and investigators have raided the club’s offices and seized documents in recent months. However, l’OM 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,” a Marseille statement said, while adding that the club have been collaborating with investigators.

Sources close to the case said there was “enough material” to “scrutinize the past and present management” of the club 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 1992-1993 Ligue 1 title for fixing the result of a match against Valenciennes — which they won 1-0 — so they could keep players fresh for the UEFA Champions League final, which they won six days later against AC Milan by the same scoreline.

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

Nimes Olympique president Jean-Marc Conrad and counterparts Jean-Francois Fortin of Stade Malherbe Caen Calvados — who are now in Ligue 1 — and Dijon FCO’s Olivier Dall’Oglio were taken into custody.

The case surrounds suspicion that the results of some second-tier matches last season were manipulated to help Nimes avoid relegation to the third division, a source close to the case said.

The affair apparently revolves around a betting ring led by Nimes’ major shareholder Serge Kasparian. It is being investigated by a special body tasked with regulating betting and gambling in France.

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

Caen have denied any involvement, with official Xavier Gravelaine saying: “We’re a clean club, we’re had an affair that concerns Nimes inflicted on us.”

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