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Nov 27, 2012

Serb arrested for match-fixing

ROME -- Italian police said Tuesday that they have arrested Serbian soccer player Almir Gegic, who has been wanted since June 2011 for alleged involvement in a widespread match-fixing case.

He turned himself in after more than a year on the run. On Tuesday, police released a video of his arrival at Milan's Malpensa airport late Monday. Gegic was brought to a jail in Cremona, where prosecutor Roberto Di Martino's match-fixing inquiry is based. More than 50 people have been arrested so far and more than 100 are under investigation.

He was allegedly a link between the fixing ring's base in Asia and Italian players. He was charged with criminal association and sports fraud and could be interrogated by the end of the week.

Gegic played for Vicenza in Italy from 1998-2000. He also played for some Turkish clubs, and was most recently with Chiasso in Switzerland from 2007-11.

"The magistrates have done a great job. They've uncovered all of the fixed matches -- at least the ones I bet on," Gegic told the Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview he did before leaving Serbia that was published Tuesday.

Gegic added that another wanted alleged fixer, Hristyian Ilievski, also is nearly ready to turn himself in.

"He's tired like I am," Gegic told the Gazzetta.

Gegic added that lawyers advised not turning himself in when the case opened last year, and that he had traveled to and from Italy without problem over the past year and a half.

"They see me as a mafioso, but I never personally fixed matches or threatened anyone," Gegic told the Italian sports newspaper. "Now I hope to clear everything up. I want to put this case behind me."

The Cremona case, along with related inquiries in Bari and Naples, has resulted in multiple clubs being handed point penalties over the past two seasons. It resulted in a four-month ban for Antonio Conte, the coach of Italian champion Juventus, for failing to report fixing when he coached Siena two seasons ago. Also, former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni was banned from soccer for 5½ years and former Lazio captain Giuseppe Signori was arrested.

Prosecutors have detailed an extensive match-fixing ring stretching as far as Singapore and South America that was allegedly in operation for more than 10 years.

"In Singapore it's possible to bet (euro) 15,000 ($20,000) on live Serie A matches. Every click is worth (euro) 15,000. In 20 minutes you can make a huge amount of money," Gegic told the Gazzetta. "And the over odds rise if there are no goals. That's why often in the phone taps it was asked to keep the score at 0-0 as long as possible.

"You need to have a lot of players involved to do that. But if you've got someone ready to put 10 million on the table for a match, don't you think they would do everything to be sure of the result?" Gegic added. "Sport betting is a worldwide plague. I don't know how it could be stopped."

Italy has only recently recovered from the 2006 match-fixing scandal -- known as Calciopoli -- that resulted in Juventus being relegated to Serie B for a season, plus point penalties for several other Serie A teams and long bans for club and refereeing officials.

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