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By ESPN Staff

Hearing for 37 suspects in Italian soccer probe

ROME -- The first hearing was held Saturday for the 37 suspects prosecutors want to put on trial for sports fraud and criminal association.

Luciano Moggi, the former Juventus official who is a central figure in the investigation, was not in court. Moggi was banned from soccer for five years and fined $75,000 by a sports court last year for influencing the outcome of matches. He denies any wrongdoing.

Juventus was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to the second division with a nine-point penalty. It immediately won promotion to Serie A.

Prosecutors want all 37 suspects tried on charges of sports fraud and are seeking trial on the more serious charge of criminal association for 20 of them, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. About 30 games from the 2004-05 season were scrutinized for possible match-fixing, it said.

Suspects include club officials and referees.

The court session in Naples was mainly taken up by procedural matters, including motions by consumer groups, soccer clubs, the Italian Olympic Committee, the Italian soccer federation and professional league to attach lawsuits to any criminal trial.

Lawyers said after the hearing that new documentation has been added to the investigation, including transcripts of telephone conversations apparently made after the scandal broke.

Judge Eduardo De Gregorio will rule on prosecutors' requests for trial indictments. The next hearing is Feb. 8.

Soccer investigations have been conducted in several cities, including Rome, with investigators looking into possible sports fraud, illegal betting and false bookkeeping.