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Sports

Match-fixing scandal engulfs French Olympic handball team, Nikola Karabatic detained

media Nikola Karabatic shows off his Olympic gold, 2012 AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON

Nine French handballers, including the national Olympic team’s biggest stars, are to be interviewed by an investigating magistrate in Montpellier on Tuesday over allegations of match fixing.

Double Olympic gold medal winner Nikola Karabatic and his brother Luka, are to be questioned about the match between Cesson and their club, Montpellier, on 12th May.

Luka Karabatic’s girlfriend, was arrested on Sunday and has admitted placing a bet on behalf of Karabatic, using his money.

Sources close to the investigation say police tapped the phones of some players who were suspected of involvement, revealing panic as the affair began to unravel.

Among the other players who have been taken into custody so far are Mikaël Robin, Primoz Prost, Samuel Honrubia, Wissem Hmam, Dragan Gajic, Mladen Bojinovic and Vid Kavticnik and Issim Jej. Robin, Kavticnik and Hmam have since been released.

Lawyers for the players admit there were illegal bets but they insist the match itself was not fixed.

But the prosecutor told a press conference on Monday that there were “very strong suspicions” over the failure to respect “sporting ethics” over the match.

“Clearly they have made a very serious mistake, it must be sanctioned and an example must be made of this, because it is something which cannot be tolerated,” said the manager of the national team, Claude Onesta, on RTL radio on Monday.

And former sports minister Chantal Jouanno said that even if the investigation yielded nothing too serious, “the image of the sport will have been damaged”.

Handball is played in most French schools and is a sport in which the country excels in international competitions. It has until now benefited from a wholesome reputation in sharp contrast to the scandal-prone football scene.

The south coast club of Montpellier has dominated French handball for the last 15 years.

Suspicions were raised over the match that Montpellier lost 31-38 to Cesson-Sevigne on 12th May.

At the time Montpellier were assured of a 13th league title in 15 seasons while the Breton club sat in eighth position.

Betting firm “La Française des Jeux” at the time reported abnormal betting patterns up to five times greater than expected and suspended bets during the match.

Around 80, 000 euros had been placed in just a few hours, resulting in estimated wins of nearly 200,000 euros, said a source close to the investigation.

Large bets reportedly came in at half-time on a loss for Montpellier, for whom the Karabatic brothers, Mladen Bojinovic, Vid Kavticnik and Samuel Honrubia were not playing because of injury.

 

 

Nine French handballers, including the national Olympic team’s biggest stars, are to be interviewed by an investigating magistrate in Montpellier on Tuesday over allegations of match fixing.

Double Olympic gold medal winner Nikola Karabatic and his brother Luka, are to be questioned about the match between Cesson and their club, Montpellier, on 12th May.

Luka Karabatic’s girlfriend, was arrested on Sunday and has admitted placing a bet on behalf of Karabatic, using his money.

Sources close to the investigation say police tapped the phones of some players who were suspected of involvement, revealing panic as the affair began to unravel.

Lawyers for the players themselves admit there were bets, even though this is illegal, but they insist the match itself was not fixed.

But the prosecutor told a press conference on Monday that there were “very strong suspicions” over the failure to respect “sporting ethics” over the match.

“Clearly they have made a very serious mistake, it must be sanctioned and an example must be made of this, because it is something which cannot be tolerated,” said the manager of the national team, Claude Onesta, on RTL radio on Monday.

And former sports minister Chantal Jouanno said that even if the investigation yielded nothing too serious, “the image of the sport will have been damaged”.

Handball is played in most French schools and is a sport in which the country excels in international competitions. It has until now benefited from a wholesome reputation in sharp contrast to the scandal-prone football scene.

The south coast club of Montpellier has dominated French handball for the last 15 years.

Suspicions were raised over the match that Montpellier lost 31-38 to Cesson-Sevigne on 12th May.

At the time Montpellier were assured of a 13th league title in 15 seasons while the Breton club sat in eighth position.

Betting firm “La Française des Jeux” at the time reported abnormal betting patterns up to five times greater than expected and suspended bets during the match.

Around 80, 000 euros had been placed in just a few hours, resulting in estimated wins of nearly 200,000 euros, said a source close to the investigation.

Large bets reportedly came in at half-time on a loss for Montpellier, for whom the Karabatic brothers, Mladen Bojinovic, Vid Kavticnik and Samuel Honrubia were not playing because of injury.

 

 

 

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