Europe's ruling football body UEFA on Tuesday did not want to confirm a report that Ukrainian referee Oleg Oriekhov has been suspended in connection with a match-fixing scheme on the continent. German Der Spiegel news magzine said on its website on Monday that UEFA suspended Oriekhov and that he was at the UEFA headquarters in Switzerland for a hearing over allegedly having contact with a prominent suspect in the case.
"UEFA cannot confirm and does not wish to make any further comment on this, while the investigation is still going on," said a statement to the German Press Agency dpa. Spiegel Online said that Oriekhov admitted to UEFA anti-corruption officials that he was in contact with the man who arrested among others two weeks ago.
The man in question is allegedly a senior figure in the betting ring for the prosecution in Bochum, Germany, which is leading the investigation.
The UEFA said last week it was probing six Europa League and One Champions league qualifiers in July and August involving five clubs from four countries: KF Tirana (Albania) KS Vilaznia (both Albania), FC Dinaburg (Latvia), NK IB Llubljana (Slovenia) and Budapest club Honved (Hungary).
The UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino also said that UEFA was probing the possible involvement of three referees and another person connected to UEFA in the match fixing scheme.
Bochum prosecutors said two weeks ago that they are probing some 200 matches in nine domestic leagues. Seventeen arrests have been carried out, 15 alone in Germany, including a Croatian man who was convicted in a German 2005 fixing affair around referee Robert Hoyzer.
Prosecutors say that Germany-based betting rings are suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and other officials to fix matches. They are said to have won more than 10 million euros through these schemes.
Lawyers later said that players were intimidated and that cooks in hotels and team doctors were given sedatives to knock players out. The betting ring allegedly also has a link to Asia and other sports like basketball and tennis may also be affected.
Players in lower German football leagues have been suspended, including SC Verl captain Patrick Neumann, who according to his lawyer has gone into hiding fearing repercussions from the betting ring.
"Patrick panicked and became afraid. He can identify the men who made contact with him. This time not only bribes were used, but intimidation and violence as well," lawyer Lutz Klose told the Koelner Stadtanzeiger paper.