Brazil prosecutors charge 16 in alleged soccer match-fixing scheme

Brazilian state prosecutors charged 16 people, including seven professional soccer players, with alleged match-fixing, in what threatens to be one of the largest such scandals since Brazil legalized sports gambling in 2018.

Prosecutors from Goias state said that the alleged offenses took place in 13 soccer matches, including eight that were played in the 2022 Brazilian league. Players from clubs such as Santos, Juventude and Cuiaba were among the accused.

Five players were suspended by their clubs on Wednesday including Athletico's Pedrinho and Bryan Garcia. Cruzeiro, Fluminense and America made the same decisions about 29-year-old midfielder Richard, 23-year-old defender Vitor Mendes, and 37-year-old right-back Nino Paraiba, respectively.

None of players have responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press. They also haven't commented on social media.

Brazilian media raised concerns about the performances of all five players in matches from the 2022 season, and added they could be targets of the "Maximum Penalty" probe that began in February.

Prosecutors did not confirm to the AP that these four players are under investigation but reported in a statement that 16 people will stand trial in the case, including seven other players.

One of the players on that list, Santos defender Eduardo Bauermann, was suspended by his club on Tuesday. TV Globo published several conversations during which the player allegedly admits involvement in the scheme.

In the charging documents, the prosecutors alleged that a criminal organization paid players to commit infractions. The organization would then bet on such outcomes and win payouts when the offenses occurred.

The group would offer up to 500,000 reais ($100,000) as an upfront payment to the players, the prosecutors alleged.

"It is a specialized operation aimed at the enticement and co-opting of professional athletes for financial gain," said the prosecutors.

Gabriel Tota, Paulo Miranda, Igor Carius, Victor Ramos, Fernando Neto and Matheus Gomes are among the other players charged, according to the documents.

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) sent a letter to the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Justice, requesting that the federal police be involved in the case, saying there is no possibility of the current competition being suspended.

"I've been working together with FIFA, as well as Brazilian clubs and Federations, with the aim of combating all types of crime, fraud or illicit action within football," CBF president Ednaldo Rodrigues said in a statement. "Those who commit crimes should not be part of Brazilian and world football."

In April, authorities raided homes of businessmen and players in six Brazilian states and 16 cities as part of an investigation that began in November of 2022.

Sports betting has only been legal in Brazil since 2018 when the country allowed online gambling. It has exploded since then, and gambling adverts are often prominent during, before and after soccer matches.

Brazil is currently preparing laws to tax and regulate the sector.

Information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report.